MONITORING (SW) NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has urged Afghan politicians to overcome differences and begin inter-Afghan talks.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg presented his Annual Report for 2019 and outlined the Alliance’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday (19 March 2020).
He said the political situation in Afghanistan is challenging and that Afghan politicians must put an end to the tensions.
"We are going to reduce the number of troops, NATO troops in the NATO Train, Assist and Advise Mission from around 16,000 soldiers, personnel, to around 12,000. With that level of troops in the mission, we will be able to maintain the mission as it is today, meaning the same structure and continue to provide training, assistance and advice to the Afghan security forces", he said.
The Secretary General said it actually brings NATO roughly back to the same level it had in the NATO Training Mission before it started to increase the number of troops, personnel, in the mission in 2016.
"We, of course, call on the Taliban and we have stated again and again that our reduction in Afghanistan is conditions-based. And we call on the Taliban to live up to their part of the agreement. We will stay committed to Afghanistan. We will continue to train, assist and advise the Afghan security forces and also provide funding, because it is important that Taliban understands that they will never win on the battlefield", he said.
Stoltenberg stressed Taliban have to make real compromises on the negotiating table. " And perhaps the most important element, or at least one of the most important elements, of the agreement between the Taliban and the United States is the agreement to initiate intra,-Afghan dialogue intra-Afghan negotiations, because we need an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned political process to find a lasting, peaceful solution to Afghanistan", he said.
This comes as the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad failed to resolve the lingering electoral rift between President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and his former power-sharing Chief Executive, Abdullah Abdullah leading to parallel oath taking ceremonies for the top position