After President Biden’s decision to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by September 11, NATO is likely to also withdraw all troops from the country.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s top national security aides were consulting with NATO on Wednesday to coordinate the alliance’s withdrawal from Afghanistan with the planned pullout of American troops by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin were meeting senior officials from the alliance’s 30 members on Wednesday to discuss NATO’s future presence in Afghanistan in light of the announcement of the U.S. withdrawal that Biden was to make later in the day.
Blinken said that he expected the allies to withdraw together but maintained that neither the U.S. nor NATO would abandon the country despite the impending pullout. There are roughly 7,000 NATO forces still in Afghanistan in addition to the remaining 2,500 U.S. troops.
“Together, we went into Afghanistan to deal with those who attacked us and to make sure that Afghanistan would not again become a haven for terrorists who might attack any of us,” Blinken said. “And together, we have achieved the goals that we set out to achieve. And now it is time to bring our forces home.”
“We will work very closely together in the weeks and months ahead on a safe, deliberate and coordinated withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan,” he said. He added that the mantra that has guided NATO’s Resolute Support mission has been “in together, adapt together, and out together.”
Afghan officials are afraid that President Biden’s decision to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond the May 1 deadline, as outlined in last year’s peace deal, would pressure Kabul’s government to release the roughly 7,000 Taliban prisoners the insurgent group has long asked to be freed.