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NATO stresses regional support for Afghan-led peace process

NATO stresses regional support for Afghan-led peace process

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Jun 28, 2017 - 21:02

RUSSELS ( Pajhwok): Ahead of a meeting of defence ministers, NATOinfo-icon Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesdaystressed the need for regional support for “an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned” peace process.

."For us the important thing is that we support the Afghan Unity government, that we support and help the Afghan forces to develop and to strengthen their capabilities and capacities," Stoltenberg told a press conference here, .

Responding to a question regarding Russian support to the Talibaninfo-icon, he said: "I have seen the reports about more contacts between Russia and Taliban but I’m not able to confirm anything about what kind of contact that has been.

"But I can just underline the importance of full support to an Afghan-led peace process." “We support efforts to find a peaceful, negotiated solution also to the conflict in Afghanistaninfo-icon.” he added.

 "I welcome the fact that President Ghani has launched a new process for reconciliation. It was a meeting there earlier this month.  And also the fact that President Ghani was able to convene the meeting and to take this initiative for a peaceful solution to the conflict despite of the attacks and the violence that we have seen in Afghanistan recently."

The NATO Secretary General highlighted that “should be an Afghan owned and Afghan-led process. So, as long as Russia is willing to contribute and help to an Afghan-led process I welcome it. I think the key is to make sure the Afghans are able to solve their own problems and we should help them in doing that.”

Regarding NATO increased defense spending, Stoltenberg said, that this “also helps to fund NATO’s activities in Afghanistan, because NATO allies spend money for their own forces in Afghanistan, but they also provide financial support for the Afghan forces and we will continue to do so, as we have decided to continue our funding on Afghan forces at least until 2020.”

“The situation in Afghanistan is difficult. We have seen the Taliban and terrorist groups killing hundreds of civilians just the last weeks but for me this just underscores the importance of NATO continuing to help the Afghans because the Afghan security forces have also proven capable, professional and able to cope with Taliban and different terrorist groups and responding to the many different attacks,” he added.

Regarding the level of troops in Afghanistan in response to a question Mr. Stoltenberg said:" We will discuss the future of our mission in Afghanistan. We have already agreed that we will maintain our presence. We will now look into the exact force levels and our military commanders have asked for a few thousand more troops.”

“We will look into that request and there’s ongoing force generation process in NATO where different allies are also announcing how many troops they are able to provide. Hopefully I can tell you more about specific troop numbers tomorrow.”

 “I don’t think I will have the final number but I guess I will be able to tell you a bit more about announcements from different countries, so I will be able to say some more about at least some numbers related to NATO presence in Afghanistan.” Stoltenberg said

“Then of course we are always concerned about civilian casualties and I know that all NATO

troops and all NATO allies are always very focused on how they can avoid civilian casualties in Afghanistan, but also of course in Iraq and Syria,” he added

Stoltenberg pointed out that “the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan is a NATO mission but in Syria and Iraq NATO is not participating in combat operations. But I am absolutely certain that all NATO allies are extremely focused on how they can minimize civilian casualties.”

In response to a question regarding returning to combat role in Afghanistan he said, there’s no requests, no plans to go back to combat operations. We - as you said - we for many years NATO conducted big or combat operations in Afghanistan; it was our biggest combat operation and then in 2015 we were able to hand over responsibility for the security in Afghanistan to the Afghan’s themselves.” He added that “there are many problems and many challenges and many difficulties and still uncertainty and violence in Afghanistan but at least one important achievement is that NATO has been able to train, to build Afghan army and security forces which are now capable of taking over responsibility for the security in their own country." He added.

“We are not planning to go back to combat operations but we are looking into the exact troop levels in our train, assist and advise mission. So, this is more about adjusting, making sure that we have the right troops and the right troop levels or numbers to be able to fulfil the mission to train, assist and advise,” Stoltenberg said.

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