Tension may go high as there are indications that the foreign troops will stay in Afghanistan beyond May deadline.

NATO officials said on condition of anonymity that there will be no full withdrawal by the deadline.

According a deal signed by the Trump administration with the Taliban, excluding Afghan government, last year the international troops were scheduled to leave Afghanistan in exchange for non-violence and peace. But recently, there is an escalation in violence in the country with target killings and explosions.

The NATO officials said that the conditions are not yet conducive to withdrawal due to upsurge in violence. The new US administration has announced review of the deal and there could be some changes to it and “we could see a much more calculated exit strategy.” 

They said the allies have been mulling plans beyond April and it will be top issue at NATO’s meeting next meeting scheduled to be held in February.

The role and position of NATO is becoming increasingly important after the alliance was sidelined by Trump.

“No NATO ally wants to stay in Afghanistan longer than necessary, but we have been clear that our presence remains conditions-based,” said NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu. “Allies continue to assess the overall situation and to consult on the way forward.” 

She said that about 10,000 troops, including Americans, are in Afghanistan. Those levels are expected to stay roughly the same until after May, but the plan beyond that is not clear.

Kabul and some agencies accuse Taliban of violating the deal by not cut ties with militant groups such as Al Qaeda and escalating violence. But Taliban deny the allegations.

Pentagon said the Taliban did not fulfill their commitments, but the US remained committed to the process and had not decided on future troop levels. 

A State Department representative said Biden was committed to bringing a “responsible end to the ‘forever wars’… while also protecting Americans from terrorist and other threats.” 

The Taliban, on the other hand, are wary of any possibility that Washington might change the agreement and keep troops in Afghanistan beyond May. Their delegations have visited Iran and Russia last week and are contacting China.

A Taliban leader in Doha has revealed that “we have conveyed our fears and they assured us of honoring and acting on the Doha accord. But, on the ground, the real situation is different. That’s why we decided to send our delegations to take our allies into confidence.”


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