NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is currently visiting Afghanistan, together with US Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Speaking alongside President Ashraf Ghani and Secretary Mattis on Wednesday (27 September 2017), Mr. Stoltenberg stressed NATO’s support for the Afghan people, for the government’s reforms, and for an Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process.
The Secretary General acknowledged that NATO’s presence in Afghanistan has come “at great human cost”, but stressed that the costs of leaving would outweigh those of remaining. “If NATO leaves, we risk Afghanistan returning to a state of chaos: a safe haven for international terrorism,” he said. “The last time that happened, it led to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in which almost 3,000 people were murdered - we cannot allow that to happen again,” he added.
Mr. Stoltenberg stated that “NATO doesn’t quit when the going gets tough”, welcoming that many nations have pledged further contributions to the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan forces. Around 13,000 troops from 39 Allies and partner countries currently serve in the mission - of which around half are US troops. The Secretary General welcomed that the Afghan forces “have come a very long way” with NATO’s help, and that they now “lead the fight against the Taliban and international terrorist groups”.
In their meetings, the Secretary General, President Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and Secretary Mattis discussed the security situation in Afghanistan and reviewed the government’s reforms. Mr. Stoltenberg underlined that “we count on the Afghan government to make good on its commitments”, including reforms on rule of law, fighting corruption and protecting the rights of women and children. He further welcomed President Ghani’s initiative for peace and reconciliation, encouraging “all countries in the region to support this process”.
The Secretary General and Secretary Mattis also held a meeting with senior Afghan officials, including Defence Minister Tariq Shah Bahrami, Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak, National Directorate of Security Director Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, and National Security Advisor Mohammad Hanif Atmar. The Secretary General also met separately with General John Nicholson, the Commander of the Resolute Support Mission, and Ambassador Cornelius Zimmermann, NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan.