Taliban warn North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to push ahead with troop withdrawal in Afghanistan

Cornelia Mascio
Febbraio 16, 2021

The 209th Shaheen Corps - part of the Afghan National Army - said in a statement that 30 fighters including six foreign nationals who were expert mine makers, had been killed in an explosion on Saturday morning.

The Afghan National Army has released a statement on social media confirming the blast was so severe that the faces of the foreign fighters couldn't be recognised.

The Taliban fighters had gathered in the village of Qultaq for instruction on how to make bombs and IEDs, which are improvised explosive devices commonly used as roadside bombs.

"It will be fair if the country that deploys troops doesn't cover all the costs", NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said during a virtual news conference from his Brussels headquarters, ahead of talks Wednesday where U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other allied defense leaders will discuss issues ranging from defense spending to security matters, including the future of NATO's mission in Afghanistan and its training mission in Iraq.

Taliban violence has surged in recent months amid stuttering peace talks with the Kabul government.

In his final days in office, Trump unilaterally reduced United States forces in Afghanistan to just 2,500 - the lowest since the start of the war in 2001.

The ministers of the 30 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member states will meet on Wednesday and Thursday to hold their highest-level talks since US President Joe Biden took office vowing to work closer with allies after four years of tensions under Donald Trump.

The deployment's future hinges on whether Biden agrees to stick to a May deadline to pull out foreign forces or risks a bloody backlash from the Islamist insurgents by staying put.

The statement came just days before the meeting of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation defence ministers, where the U.S. would present its plan for the future of Afghanistan.

Similarly, the Biden administration is also reviewing the Taliban-US deal and has given mixed signals.

"Our message to the upcoming North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ministerial meeting is that the continuation of occupation and war is neither in your interest nor in the interest of your and our people", the Taliban said in a statement.

"We see that there is still a need for the Taliban to do more when it comes to delivering on their commitments ... to make sure that they break all ties with global terrorists", Stoltenberg said. "Afghanistan should never again serve as a haven for terrorists to attack our homelands".

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