Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin said the United States would not undertake a hasty or disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Addressing the second and final day of the NATO defense ministers meeting, Austin thanked allies for their continued commitment to the Resolute Support Mission and reiterated that the US remains committed to a diplomatic effort to end the war.
He told the allies that the US is thoroughly reviewing the conditions of the US-Taliban Agreement to determine whether all parties have adhered to them.
Austin said that he is committed to consulting with allies and partners throughout this process.
On Iraq, Austin reaffirmed the US commitment to the enduring defeat of ISIS, respecting Iraq’s sovereignty, and ensuring long-term regional stability. He said that the recent rocket attack in Erbil underscores the importance of “our continued work in the region.”
NATO: Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that at this stage, the alliance has not made a final decision about a troop presence in Afghanistan.
“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,” said Stoltenberg at a press conference in Brussels.
“We remain committed to our Resolute Support mission, with training and funding for the brave Afghan security forces,” he said.
“Defense Ministers had a thorough discussion on the situation in Afghanistan. We are faced with many dilemmas and there are no easy options,” he said.
Stoltenberg said NATO strongly supports the peace process in Afghanistan. “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.”
He advised the Taliban to negotiate in good faith, reduce the high level of violence and live up to their commitment to stop cooperating with international terrorist groups.