Die NATO lässt vorerst offen, wie lange das Bündnis seinen Militäreinsatz in Afghanistan fortsetzen will. Die Verteidigungsminister der Allianz hätten bei ihrer Videokonferenz am (heutigen) Donnerstag noch keine endgültige Entscheidung getroffen, sagte NATO-Generalsekretär Jens Stoltenberg.
Das virtuelle Treffen, an dem erstmals der neue US-Verteidigungsminister Lloyd Austin als Vertreter der Regierung des neuen Präsidenten Joe Biden teilnahm, stand im Zeichen eines zwischen den USA und den Taliban im vergangenen Jahr ausgehandelten Abkommens: Danach sollten sowohl die US-Truppen als auch ihre Verbündeten bis zum 1. Mai vom Hindukusch abziehen.
Stoltenberg machte deutlich, dass die Minister noch nicht zu dem Ergebnis gekommen seien, dass die Bedingungen dieses Abkommens erfüllt seien, vor allem der Beginn eines politischen Prozesses für eine friedliche Lösung in dem Bürgerkriegsland. Die Lage müsse deshalb weiter bewertet werden, ehe es zu einer Entscheidung über einen Abzug komme. Ziel sei eine dauerhafte politische Einigung, die es uns möglich macht, zu gehen. Wenn die internationalen Truppen zu früh abzögen, wären alle Fortschritte der vergangenen Jahre vergebens und Afghanistan drohe erneut zu einem sicheren Hafen für Terroristen zu werden.
Austin habe in der Sitzung erklärt, dass die USA ihre weiteren Schritte eng mit den Verbündeten abstimmen würden, sagte Stoltenberg. Wir werden die Entscheidung gemeinsam treffen, betonte der NATO-Generalsekretär. Die Alliierten seien sich einig, dass so viel Einfluss wie möglich auf die Gespräche zwischen der afghanischen Regierung und den Taliban ausgeübt werden müsse, damit es dabei tatsächlich zu einer Einigung im Land komme.
Nachtrag: Aus dem Transkript der Pressekonferenz die Aussagen zu Afghanistan:
On the agenda of our meeting today were our training missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Both are key contributions to the fight against international terrorism.
Defence Ministers had a thorough discussion on the situation in Afghanistan.
We are faced with many dilemmas and there are no easy options.
At this stage, we have made no final decision on the future of our presence, but, as the May 1 deadline is approaching, NATO Allies will continue to closely consult and coordinate in the coming weeks. We remain committed to our Resolute Support mission, with training and funding for the brave Afghan security forces. NATO strongly supports the peace process, and as part of it, we have significantly reduced the number of our troops. The peace process is the best chance to end years of suffering and violence. And bring lasting peace.
It is important for the Afghan people. For the security of the region. And for our own security. But the talks are fragile, and progress is slow. So it is now imperative to re-energise the peace process. All sides must seize this historic opportunity for a peaceful settlement. Without further delay.
The Taliban must negotiate in good faith, reduce the high level of violence and live up to their commitment to stop cooperating with international terrorist groups. NATO’s goal is to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists that would attack our homelands.
So Allies will continue to assess together the conditions on the ground. As we do, the protection of our troops remains paramount, and we will take all necessary measures to keep them safe. (…)And with that, I am ready to take your questions.
OANA LUNGESCU [NATO Spokesperson]: Ansgar Hasse from DPA.
ANSGAR HASSE [DPA]: Secretary General, you say that the promise to leave Afghanistan is condition-based. Can you please tell us exactly what conditions you are talking about and is a ceasefire in Afghanistan one of the conditions for NATO to withdraw? Thank you.
STOLTENBERG: All NATO Allies welcomed the agreement between the United States and Taliban last year. At the same time, we clearly stated that, of course, there are conditions in this agreement that have to be met. And, therefore, I have many times made clear that Taliban needs to negotiate in good faith, violence has to be reduced, and the Taliban has to stop cooperating with international terrorist groups that are planning terrorist attacks on our own countries, on Allied countries. This is very clear and this has been conveyed many times. And this is important because we are, of course, seeking a lasting and sustainable political agreement in Afghanistan. And that’s also the reason why we will continue to assess the situation before we make any final decision on our future presence in Afghanistan.
OANA LUNGESCU: OK, we can now go to Osama Javaid from Al-Jazeera.
OSAMA JAVAID [Al Jazeera]: Secretary General, thank you very much for taking the time. I have two questions for you, one for Afghanistan. You say that your . . . the presence of NATO forces is going to continue and it’s conditions-based. So how will you measure the condition that the Taliban is actually severing ties? And in case there is an uptick of violence, is additional forces on the ground from NATO and the United States still on the table? (…)
STOLTENBERG: We are closely monitoring the situation on the ground in Afghanistan and, of course, by having our own troops there, intelligence, surveillance capabilities, we are able to follow the situation very closely. We’re also working with the Afghan security forces and are exchanging information and intelligence also with them. There is an ongoing assessment, an ongoing close monitoring of the situation. And, based on that, Allies will make decisions together.
And, I also very much welcome the very clear message from Secretary Austin, who made it very clear that the United States is going to continue to consult with NATO Allies and continue to make sure that we are coordinated as we move forward in Afghanistan.
We have to remember that we have been there for many years and we have worked together there for many years. And when you ask about the troop numbers, what we have seen over the last year is a significant reduction in the total number of NATO troops in Afghanistan. Today, there are roughly 10,000 troops. The majority of the troops are from European Allies and partner countries. We will do what is necessary to make sure that our troops are secure, safe. We have adjusted the troop numbers before, but I will not speculate, because now the focus is on making sure that the peace talks are successful.
So our aim is to make sure that we have a lasting political agreement that can make it possible for us to leave in a way that doesn’t undermine our main goal, and that is to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven.
We have seen, not so many years ago, we were more than 100,000 troops in a big combat operation. We have been able to work together with the Afghan security forces – train, assist, advise them – and now the Afghan security forces have proven to be capable, professional, and therefore they are in the lead of the security in the country. But, we are staying committed and continue to provide support to them. (…)
OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you, we now come back to Brussels, and hopefully we can we can take a question from Marilou Lucrezio from RAI, Italy.
MARILOU LUCREZIO [RAI]: Good evening, Secretary General. What is the way ahead now on Afghanistan, after all you spoke about . . . we hope about the peace talks are successful. And if I can, if you can say, if I may ask a few words on Italy’s role in Afghanistan and your expectations from the Draghi administration? Thank you.
STOLTENBERG: The best way ahead in Afghanistan is that we see a reenergised peace process, where all the parties take the responsibility to find a political-negotiated solution. So, that’s our main message from this meeting, is that we urge all parties to really make a serious effort to agree and to find a platform that can provide sustainable peace in Afghanistan. That has to include, for instance, a ceasefire. It has to include a political settlement. And it has to include measures to make sure that Afghanistan does not once again becomes a platform for international terrorists to prepare, organise attacks against NATO countries and other countries in the world. That is the best way forward.
The problem is that we are in a situation where we have a date – 1st of May – approaching. And so far we have seen that the peace talks are fragile. They are not making so much progress as we want to see. And, therefore, we also, of course, are extremely concerned by the increased level of violence. And, therefore, our message to Taliban is to reduce violence, negotiate in good faith and make sure that they stop all cooperation with international terrorist groups.
That’s also the reason why we have not made a final decision today, at the ministerial meeting today, on our future presence in Afghanistan, because we believe that there is still time to reach a political agreement to see progress before the deadline, 1st of May. So, our focus is on the peace process and we will do whatever we can to make that be a successful process.
Italy is playing and has played an important role in Afghanistan for many years. I have met and visited Italian forces in Afghanistan several times in Herat, where Italy is the lead nation, or the framework nation. And NATO, we are extremely grateful for the contributions over many years by Italy to our Mission in Afghanistan, fighting international terrorism. (…)
OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you. And I we’ll now go to Kabul to Shershah Nawabi from PMG News, Afghanistan.
SHERSHAH NAWABI [PMG News]: Yeah, thank you so much, Mr Secretary General, for giving us your time. Actually, there are two questions that I have. In current situation, according to the news reports that we have, Taliban are now working or planning for their spring fight, for their spring assault. So what do you think about this case, as you haven’t decided about your presence in Afghanistan? What would be the . . . your stand on the issue of a spring assault? And the second issue is: a few days ago, Mullah Baradar just sent an open letter to the US government and also to the international community and urged all sides to pull out the troops from Afghanistan. So what’s NATO’s stance in this case? Thank you so much.
STOLTENBERG: So, our presence in Afghanistan is conditions-based. And that’s also the reason why we now are closely looking into and monitoring and assessing the situation on the ground in Afghanistan before we make a final decision. Any increase in violence will undermine the peace efforts. And a spring offensive will, of course, undermine the prospects for peace. We are actually expecting the opposite. We are expecting that the Taliban reduces violence and by that, demonstrating faith in the peace negotiations.
So, any increase in violence will be the opposite message and thereby also undermine the possibilities of a lasting, negotiated, peaceful agreement in Afghanistan.
OANA LUNGESCU: OK, next is Thomas Gutschker from Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
THOMAS GUTSCHKER [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung]: Thanks a lot. Secretary General, did you get any indication from Secretary Austin on when the US intends to make its decision and whether it already has any inclination on the way forward? And, in addition to that, does only withdrawal, an end to the mission in Afghanistan, need to form a decision, or also a continuation? Thank you.
STOLTENBERG: It is not for me to speak on behalf of the United States, but what I can say is that Secretary Austin, in the meeting, clearly expressed a commitment by the United States to continue to consult closely with NATO Allies and also consult with partners. Because we have to remember that in our mission, the NATO Mission in Afghanistan, we have, of course, NATO Allies, but we also have partners like Finland, Sweden and other partners, Georgia, contributing troops and forces to our mission in Afghanistan.
So, we all should stay closely coordinated and continue to closely consult. And we will make the decisions together, not least because there are many US troops in Afghanistan, but there are also many troops from Europe, from European NATO Allies, and from partner nations. So, we need to make this decision together based on consultations and assessments we are making together.
But, we all agreed that this was not the time to make the final decision, because we think there is still a possibility to reach a peaceful settlement to the crisis, to the conflict in Afghanistan. So, therefore, the message from this meeting is that we have not made a final decision, but we are putting as much pressure as possible on the peace process and especially on Taliban to make sure that they negotiate in good faith.
But, there’s also the message to all of the parties involved, that all parties should now really make an effort to reenergise, revitalise the peace negotiations in Doha, because there’s still time for peace in Afghanistan.
Let me add one more thing. This is obviously a difficult decision. No-one is trying to say that this is easy. We are faced with very hard and difficult dilemmas. Because, if we stay beyond 1st May, we risk more violence, we risk more attacks against our own troops, and we risk, of course, also to be part of a continued presence in Afghanistan: that will be difficult. But, if we leave, then we also risk that the gains we have made are lost and that Afghanistan again could become a safe haven for international terrorists.
So, that’s exactly the reason why we need to make sure that we maximise the likelihood that all the conditions are in place, in the best possible way, to prevent that from happening again. And then we need a thorough assessment of to what extent are conditions met, to what extent are we willing to take some risks in a very difficult situation in Afghanistan.
OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you. For the next question we’ll go to Naser Ahmadi, Deutsche Welle, Afghanistan.
NASER AHMADI [DW Afghanistan]: Thank you very much for giving me the chance. My question is that the Taliban have threatened to start a major war against foreign forces if they do not withdraw by May 1st. Does it mean the collapse of US-Taliban agreement and the end of intra-Afghan peace talks? What is your position regarding this issue?
STOLTENBERG: So, my main focus now is to avoid or prevent ending in the situation where we see increased violence and new fighting in Afghanistan. We still have the possibility to create the conditions for a lasting peace. This is the Afghan-owned and Afghan-led process, so the Afghans have to create the peace.
But, NATO and NATO Allies provide support. We are committed to continue to provide support to the Afghan security forces. We are committed to extend funding til 2024. And we are there with our Resolute Support Mission, which is much smaller than our previous training mission . . . no, sorry, our previous combat mission, with more than 100,000 troops. But, we think that the training has been important because it has helped to strengthen the capacity of the Afghan security forces. And we have seen the courage, we have seen the professionalism of the Afghan security forces, especially over the last years since NATO ended its combat operations and went into a train, assist and advise mission.
But, again, any increase in violence by Taliban will undermine the prospects for peace. And, therefore, we expect them to reduce violence, not increase violence.
(Foto: Opening remarks by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg – NATO)