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NATO Backs U.S. Afghan Peace Efforts

by AFP

John Thys—AFP

Alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg says NATO remains committed to supporting Afghan forces

NATO “fully supports” American efforts to find peace in Afghanistan, the alliance chief said on Tuesday after talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on a deal taking shape with the Taliban.

Pompeo met NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels as Washington tries to finalize an agreement with the Taliban after 18 years of war, under which the U.S. would withdraw several thousand troops in return for security guarantees from the insurgents.

On Monday, a massive blast in a residential area of Kabul killed at least 16 people, the third major Taliban attack in as many days, underlining the fragile security situation in Afghanistan.

NATO ended its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014, handing security responsibility over to the Afghans, but maintains up to 16,000 troops on the ground to train, advise and assist local defense forces. “Great discussion with @SecPompeo on current security issues. #NATO fully supports efforts to achieve peace in #Afghanistan. I condemn recent horrific attacks & NATO remains committed to supporting Afghan forces,” Stoltenberg tweeted.

Under the proposed deal, the U.S. will pull troops from five bases across Afghanistan under a final deal if the Taliban honor their end of the bargain.

The official number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is 14,000—though the real number is thought to be a bit less—and President Donald Trump last week said America would maintain a permanent presence of about 8,600 troops initially, even after a deal with the Taliban. That suggests around 5,400 U.S. troops are set to leave Afghanistan under the initial terms of the deal, reducing the U.S. military presence to about what it was before Trump came into office.

In return for the troop reduction, the Taliban would vow to cut ties with Al Qaeda and open negotiations with the Afghan government with the aim of creating an eventual ceasefire.

Pompeo’s talks with NATO came as part of a two-day visit to Brussels, where he also met the new E.U. leadership including commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen and incoming E.U. Council president Charles Michel.

Michel tweeted after their meeting that they had discussed “shared values and common interests.”

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