NATO forces will leave together from Afghanistan: Blinken
The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on April 14 the moment has come to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and that Washington would work with NATO allies on a “coordinated” pull-out.
“Together, we have achieved the goals that we set out to achieve and now it is time to bring our forces home,” Blinken said in Brussels ahead of talks with NATO partners.
NATO partners meeting in Brussels, some physically but most virtually, look set to agree to wrap up the alliance’s 9,600-strong mission in Afghanistan at the same time as the group’s major military power leaves.
“This is an important moment, for our alliance,” Blinken said.
“Together, we went into Afghanistan, to deal with those who attacked us and to make sure that Afghanistan would not again become a haven for terrorists who might attack any of us,” he added.
Blinken said the allies “will work very closely together in the weeks and months ahead on a safe, deliberate and coordinated withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan.”
He insisted that, despite the pull-out, “our commitment to Afghanistan, to its future, will remain”.
The draw down delays only by around five months an agreement with the Taliban by former U.S. President Donald
Trump to withdraw troops, amid a growing consensus in Washington that little more can be achieved.
The decision came as Turkey announced an international peace conference on Afghanistan in hopes of reaching an agreement that brings stability to a nation battered by nearly 40 years of war.
On April 13, Turkey said it will host an international peace conference on Afghanistan from April 24 to May 4, in a bid to jump-start faltering negotiations between the Taliban and Afghan government.
“The overriding objective of the Istanbul Conference on the Afghanistan Peace Process is to accelerate and complement the ongoing intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha on the achievement of a just and durable political settlement,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.
“The conference will focus on helping the negotiating parties reach a set of shared, foundational principles that reflect an agreed vision for a future Afghanistan, a roadmap to a future political settlement and an end to the conflict,” it added.
The conference is being co-sponsored by the United Nations and Qatar.
The Turkish foreign ministry said the talks would be between representatives of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban.
But Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem told AFP: “We have not made a final decision in this regard.”
“The date can not be set as long as we have not finalized our consultations [for the conference],” he noted.