NATO calls for peace in Afghanistan, maintains support for ANDSF

KABUL (TOLO News): NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, speaking at a virtual press conference on Tuesday ahead of the alliance’s Defense Ministers Conference, welcomed the Afghan government’s move to create a peace negotiating team, and said the Taliban must commit themselves to the peace agreement they signed with the US, as well as reduce violence.

“We call on the Taliban to cease the attacks to fully implement the agreement between the United States and the Taliban and to reduce violence because that’s the only way towards a peaceful negotiated solution. And we strongly support all efforts to initiate intra-Afghan negotiations,” he said.

He said the alliance fully supports the Afghan government’s move to create the peace negotiating team to talk to the Taliban.

He said NATO expects all parties to reduce violence in the country.

Stoltenberg referred to the recent meeting between General Scott Miller, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, with the Taliban in Doha, saying: “I also welcome that the NATO’s commander in Afghanistan, our top commander in Afghanistan, Scott Miller, recently met with the Taliban and also the US envoy, Ambassador Khalilzad, is also in close contact with them to try to facilitate a peace process which is the only way to reach peaceful negotiated solution in Afghanistan.”

Ambassador Khalilzad and Gen. Miller, on Monday met with a Taliban delegation led by the deputy leader of the group Mullah Baradar in Qatar and discussed the US and Taliban agreement. The meeting was announced by the Taliban on Twitter, and Khalilzad’s trip to Qatar was confirmed by a press release from the US State Department.

Stoltenberg continued: “NATO will continue to stay committed to Afghanistan with financial support, with our Resolute Support mission, with training. Because we believe that the best way for us to support the peace process is to continue the support to the Afghans so that the Taliban understand that they will never win on the battlefield. They have to sit down at the negotiating table and make real compromises.”

This comes as the Afghan government, to accelerate intra-Afghan talks, has recently released over 300 Taliban prisoners and more are expected to be released in the days to come.

Based on the US-Taliban peace agreement, 5,000 prisoners of the group should be released by the Afghan government, and 1,000 prisoners should be released by the Taliban to pave the way for intra-Afghan negotiations.

Meanwhile, TOLOnews findings show that the Taliban has carried out 2,162 attacks against government forces following the one-week reduction in violence (RIV) that started on February 22, and which led to the signing of a peace agreement between the US and the Taliban.

The findings show that the Afghan forces – who now claim to be in an active but defensive mode against the Taliban – have conducted 302 operations in response to the Taliban from March 3 to April 7.