In a rare rebuke of U.S. policy, the head of NATO warned that Afghanistan could again become a haven for terrorist organizations to plan and organize attacks on Western countries after reports that the Trump administration is looking to withdraw thousands of U.S. troops.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg noted that “NATO went into Afghanistan after an attack on the United States to ensure that it would never against be a safe haven for international terrorists.” He also wrote, “We went into Afghanistan together. And when the time is right, we should leave together in a coordinated and orderly way.”
From The Washington Post:
“We now face a difficult decision. We have been in Afghanistan for almost 20 years, and no NATO ally wants to stay any longer than necessary,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement. “But at the same time, the price for leaving too soon or in an uncoordinated way could be very high.”
“Afghanistan risks becoming once again a platform for international terrorists to plan and organize attacks on our homelands,” he said. “And ISIS could rebuild in Afghanistan the terror caliphate it lost in Syria and Iraq,” Stoltenberg added, referring to the Islamic State militant group.
The statement, which The Post noted represents “the sharpest tone that Stoltenberg has taken toward President Trump,” came after U.S. officials said the White House intends to decrease the number of troops in Afghanistan from about 5,000 to 2,500 before President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January.
A U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan would gut NATO operations in the country. Although the military alliance has about 12,000 troops from 38 countries in Afghanistan, it is reliant on U.S. personnel and infrastructure. The expectation at NATO is that if the United States pulls out, everyone else will also, given the importance of U.S. logistical capabilities in Afghanistan.
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