KABUL (Tolo News): As the peace negotiations continue and amidst attempts to withdraw international troops from Afghanistan, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the talks in Doha are “fragile” and that the presence of the international forces in the country is conditions-based. He made the remarks at the NATO Defense ministerial where he reiterated that a recent attack on the NATO forces in Kandahar indicates that the situation in Afghanistan remains challenging.
“As part of the peace process, NATO has adjusted its military presence in Afghanistan. And our presence is conditions-based. Any future adjustments must depend on progress in the peace talks and the conditions on the ground,” Stoltenberg said. He added that Doha talks—between negotiating teams from the Afghan republic and the Taliban—provide an historic opportunity for peace in Afghanistan.
Stoltenberg said NATO’s fight against terrorism was top of the agenda at today’s Defense Ministers meeting, adding that “NATO supports the peace process in Afghanistan” and that “the Doha talks are fragile, but the best chance for peace.” “The Taliban must reduce the unacceptable levels of violence to pave the way to a ceasefire,” Stoltenberg said. “They must break all ties with al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations so that Afghanistan never again serves as a platform for terrorist attacks on our countries,” he said.
The NATO chief said the achievements of Afghans over the last two decades should be preserved. “At the end of the day, peace in Afghanistan has to be created by the Afghans and stabilize their country,” said NATO chief. This comes days after US President Donald Trump urged the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan by Christmas.
Meanwhile, NATO Senior Civilian Representative to Afghanistan, Stefano Pontecorvo, said that the future of Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) will be one of the most pressing issues in the peace negotiations with the Taliban, suggesting that there is a need for more inclusive talks in this regard. Speaking at an event organized by the Institute of War and Peace Studies (IWPS) titled “From Combatants to Peace Builders Series – The Future of ANDSF and Prospect for Integration of Taliban Fighters and Commanders into ANDSF,” the NATO envoy said there is a need for inclusion of Afghan women’s views in the peace process.
“Afghans will only feel secure when they are responsible for their own security,” Pontecorvo said. “Regional actors should also recognize that the region will be more secure if post-peace security structures are determined by the Afghans in the negotiating table.” He also said that “capable Afghan security forces give republic leaders the confidence to negotiate in the political space to maneuver at the negotiating table.”
Panelists at the event commended the Afghan forces for their capabilities in the fight against terrorism but added that the security force members are faced with lack of equipment. The ANDSF members have got extraordinary potential in terms of leading the war, said David Sedney, President of the American University of Afghanistan, adding that they are coping with a lack of equipment, training and logistical resources. “The question is do the Taliban want peace? Because a lot of the questions that you raised and a lot of issues that ambassador Pontecorvo raised can only be answered if in fact the Taliban want peace,” he said.
The panelists also exchanged views on the disarmament processes in various countries, particularly in Afghanistan. “There is very limited evidence across Afghan experience but also across global post-conflict contexts about DDR, demobilization, reintegration, actually working according to the current models that have been followed. In fact, there is more evidence of these programs that failed to achieve those objectives,” said Ashley Jackson, Research Associate and Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Armed Groups at ODI.
Recently, a Taliban spokesman said the issue—of disarming or reintegration—of their fighters will be discussed in the negotiating table. “For Afghanistan, historically the state income or lack of it has been important for stability,” said Nemat Bezhan, a university lecturer in Australia. He suggested that there is a need to focus on the country’s needs to fill the gap that will be left by the American troops.
At least 20 members of the Afghan National Army (ANA) were killed in a Taliban attack on their outpost in Khashrod district, Nimroz province, said Jalil Ahmad Watandost, the district governor of Khashrod. The Afghan Ministry of Defense (MoD) said that the group’s fighters had expanded their attacks to 24 provinces over the past 24 hours, including Takhar, Helmand, Uruzgan, Kunduz, Baghlan, Laghman, Paktia, Paktika, Ghazni, Logar, Maidan Wardak, Kandahar, Zabul, Herat, Farah, Badghis, Faryab, Sar-e-Pul and Badakhshan provinces. Takhar’s deputy police chief Raz Mohammad Doorandish and nearly 50 security force members were killed in clashes with the Taliban in the province.