NATO should confirm withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan

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BRUSSELS – Now that the United States has decided to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by September 11, NATO foreign and defense ministers are meeting to discuss a “safe, deliberate and coordinated of our forces from Afghanistan, ”US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said at alliance headquarters on Wednesday.

Ministers from NATO member countries, many of whom are virtually attending Wednesday’s meeting, are expected to officially support the date of the US withdrawal. The alliance mantra has always been “together and together,” so ministers should confirm that their troops will leave alongside the Americans, although some smaller contingents may leave first.

At present, of the 9,600 NATO troops officially in Afghanistan, approximately 2,500 are American, although the number may be as much as 1,000 more. The second largest contingent comes from Germany, with some 1,300 troops.

“We achieved the goals we set for ourselves,” said Blinken. “Now is the time to bring our strength home.”

In brief remarks, Mr Blinken limited these goals to counterterrorism, not to mention wider NATO efforts to free women, help girls go to school, and divert agriculture from the culture of the country. poppy with heroin.

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After the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, “Together we went to Afghanistan to face those who attacked us and to ensure that Afghanistan did not again become a haven for terrorists who might attack it. ‘one of us,’ Mr Blinken said. These goals have been achieved, he said.

Some current and former US officials agree that Afghanistan should not become a terrorist threat to the United States in the short term, but they say the issue is more difficult to assess in the long term.

Even as the Atlantic Alliance withdraws its troops, Blinken said, “our commitment to Afghanistan and its future will remain.”

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, referring to NATO, told German television station ARD on Wednesday: “We have always said: ‘We will go in together, we will go together’. I am for an orderly withdrawal and that is why I guess we will agree to this today. “

NATO allies were waiting for President Biden to decide on a withdrawal deadline and have had consultations with US officials. It was important now, Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer said, “for us in NATO to synchronize our planning with US planning.”

Atlantic Alliance troops rely on the Americans for force protection, logistics and intelligence and would be very vulnerable if they remained after the US leaves.

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NATO ministers will also address the build-up of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine, Alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday alongside Blinken. “Russia must put an end to this rise in military power, stop the provocations and defuse it,” Stoltenberg said.

NATO will discuss how to demonstrate additional support to Ukraine and plans for the alliance’s next meeting this year, Stoltenberg added.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III is expected to join Blinken at the NATO meeting after visits to Israel and Germany.

After the meeting, Mr. Blinken will meet the Foreign Ministers of Great Britain, France and Germany, the other members of the “Quad”, to discuss Afghanistan, Ukraine and the ongoing discussions in Vienna on how to restore the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. .

These talks are expected to resume this week. They were complicated by the blackout at the Natanz nuclear enrichment plant in Iran, which was believed to have been the result of an Israeli attack, and by Tehran’s responses, which included an attack on a Israeli ship and a wish to start upgrading uranium. 20% to 60% enrichment, levels prohibited by the agreement and closer to the level of weapons.

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Iranian decisions were criticized Wednesday in a joint statement by the British, French and German foreign ministers.

“This is a serious development since the production of highly enriched uranium is an important step in the production of a nuclear weapon,” the statement said.

The statement called Iran’s actions “particularly regrettable” as the Vienna meetings progressed. “The dangerous recent communication from Iran is contrary to the constructive spirit and the good faith of these discussions,” he noted.

Iran maintains that its nuclear program is purely civilian.

The German Foreign Ministry said the main topic of the Quad’s separate foreign ministers meeting will be Afghanistan. Although France withdrew its troops from Afghanistan years ago, the country remains deeply involved in the Iran talks. The Vienna negotiations attempt to bring both the United States and Iran back into compliance with the agreement, from which President Donald J. Trump withdrew in May 2018. In response, Iran has started to violate enrichment levels, qualifying its actions as “corrective”.

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