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Leaving Afghanistan costlier than staying: Stoltenberg

Leaving Afghanistan costlier than staying: Stoltenberg

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Nov 08, 2018 - 12:25

KABULinfo-icon (Pajhwok): NATOinfo-icon Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says they strongly believe the cost of staying in Afghanistaninfo-icon is much lower than the cost of leaving.

Stoltenberg was addressing the alliance’s Resolute Mission troops at the Train Advise and Assist Command in western Herat province on Wednesday.

“I am pleased to be here to tell you how grateful we are for your service, for what you do here in Afghanistan in Herat every day,” the NATO chief told the troops.

“Because you have to remember that you are in Afghanistan because NATO is in Afghanistan to make sure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorism.”

Stoltenberg said helping the Afghans was helping themselves.  “It is in our security interest to make sure that Afghanistan not once again becomes a platform, a territory, a country where terrorist organizations can prepare, plan attacks against our own countries,” Stoltenberg added.

He said he met President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah and many other Afghan interlocutors and his message to them was that they were committed and would continue to stay in Afghanistan to help to train, assist and advise the Afghan forces.

“We do not underestimate the challenges, the threats, the difficulties, but we strongly believe that the cost of staying - it’s much lower than the cost of leaving Afghanistan.”

He said if NATO left Afghanistan, the Talibaninfo-icon would come back and different insurgent and terrorist organizations would again gain a foothold here.

“They will start to use Afghanistan as a platform for not only organizing terrorist attacks against the people in Afghanistan but also against the people in our own countries.  So that’s the reason why we are here,” the NATO Secretary General said.

Stoltenberg said they also strongly believed the only way to solve the conflict in Afghanistan was a political, negotiated, peaceful solution.

“So therefore NATO strongly supports the efforts to establish a peace process.  NATO is not directly involved in the peace process, but we support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process,” he added.

He said the best way was to continue to support the Afghan National Army and security forces in order to send a clear message to Taliban and to other insurgents that they could not win on the battlefield. 

“It’s pointless continuing to fight, it’s counter-productive to continue to fight and that they can achieve more by sitting down and engage in constructive talks to find a political, peaceful solution.”

The NATO chief welcomed President Ghani’s unconditional peace talks offer to the Taliban and the US initiative to initiate preliminary talks with the rebels.

“But we need to combine these peace initiatives with continued military support.  There is no contradiction between being firm and strong on the battlefield and at the same time engage in political efforts.”

“Actually, as long as we are strong, as long as we provide continued military support to the Afghan forces, that’s the best way to create a platform for a political, negotiated solution. “

He said NATO mission in Afghanistan was the alliance biggest military operation. 

“It’s the only time NATO has invoked Article 5 and we did so after attack on the United States, 09/11/2001 and therefore, you are actually serving in the biggest and the most demanding and challenging NATO operation.”

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