No cut in NATO presence due to insider attacks: Stoltenberg
KABUL: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says it is impossible for the western military alliance to reduce its presence in Afghanistan because of insider’s attacks.
The NATO chief made these remarks during an exclusive interview with Pajhwok Afghan News on Tuesday evening after meeting President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Abdullah Abdullah,
The NATO chief also met with Afghanistan National Security Advisor (NSA) Hamdullah Mohib, Defense Minister and some other political figures after arriving in Kabul for a two-day visit.
He reaffirmed strong commitments of NATO allies to maintain support for Afghanistan in fighting terrorism. “It is in our own interest to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for international terrorists,” he said.
When asked about the Wolesi Jirga elections, he commended the people of Afghanistan for using their vote right, saying four million Afghans voted, a third of whom were women.
He congratulated the Afghans on the successful conduct of the democratic process. “Of course the voting process had some challenges and shortcomings, which should be addressed ahead of the presidential election.” But the overall elections were a great achievement and the Afghan security forces provided good security for elections as NATO troops helped and advised them in best way, Stoltenberg responded.
The Secretary General hoped the parliamentary elections could provide some valuable lessons how to conduct the upcoming presidential polls in even better way.
About peace talks hosted by Russia on Nov 9 on Afghanistan, the NATO chief said it was hard to comment on the summit because its agenda was yet to be clarified. He, however, said any efforts from Russia should support the Afghan peace initiatives. NATO strongly supported an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, the chief said, calling on all actors to support the process.
Stoltenberg welcomed the ceasefire in June and initial talks between the US and the Taliban.
He said the US was the biggest ally in the NATO mission and it had such an important role to play in the Afghan peace process. The NATO chief welcomed the US recent efforts for the Afghan peace process.
When asked NATO limited its contact with Afghan security forces after the insider attack and killing of Gen Abdul Raziq in southern Kandahar province, Stoltenberg explained it was NATO’s top priority to support the Afghan forces and there was no question of reducing their presence because of insider attacks.
He said though in some areas NATO changed its support and advice way temporarily but the plan would come back to normal soon.
When asked about the increase in civilian and security forces casualties, he said every casualty was a tragedy and conveyed his condolences to those who lost their loved ones.
He said these casualties should be reduced and he had discussed the issue with Afghan officials.
He called on all neighboring countries, including Pakistan, to support the Afghan peace process and deny safe heavens to extremist groups. (Pajhwok)