NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday reiterated that the promise to leave Afghanistan and the alliance’s presence in Afghanistan is conditions-based.

General Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary-General of NATO on Wednesday said that alliance withdrawal from Afghanistan is condition-based.

“You’re right that in the deal that was signed last year, I was actually in Kabul when the deal was signed in Doha, and in that deal, there is a May 1st deadline. But the promise to leave Afghanistan is conditions-based. Our presence in Afghanistan is conditions-based,” Stoltenberg said.

He stressed that Taliban should be committed to peace process.

“What NATO does now is that we, first of all, do whatever we can to support the peace process and the full implementation of the deal. We will only leave when the time is right. And the focus now is how can we support the peace efforts, the peace talks, and reenergize, relaunch a new strength, a new momentum in the peace talks, because that’s the only path to peace,” the NATO chief said. 

“We have made decisions on adjusting our presence together. And we will also make the decision, when the time is right, to leave together. So what we can do now is to coordinate, consult. We are going to have a discussion tomorrow; I’ll not pre-empt the outcome of that discussion. But Allies are coordinating closely, all Allies, including, of course, the United States. And then we will make a decision together,” he said.

“There are roughly 10,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan now, and the majority of them are not from the United States. And I think that demonstrates the value of NATO also for the United States, because the United States, when they went into Afghanistan, they didn’t go alone. They have been supported by NATO Allies with tens of thousands of troops for now close to two decades. So, of course, the United States is the biggest force contributor to our mission in Afghanistan, but not the only one. Many Allies, many partners,” Stoltenberg added.

NATO official indicated that they want a peace acceptable to all of the involved parties.

“We are calling on Taliban to reduce violence, to negotiate in good faith and to stop supporting international terrorists like al Qaeda. And then we will make the necessary decisions together. But I think the main focus now should be on reenergising the peace talks, because that’s the only way to a peaceful solution,” he added. 

“The Taliban continues to maintain relations with al-Qaida,” Defense Department acting Inspector General Sean O’Donnell wrote in the report released Wednesday, citing intelligence that members of al-Qaida and its affiliate, al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), have been integrated into the Taliban’s command and control structure, VOA reported

According to VOA, O’Donnell also accused the Taliban of negotiating in bad faith, writing its commanders are “employing violence across the country in a strategic effort to increase its leverage.”

NATO defense ministers prepare their two-day virtual meeting in which they will address NATO’s mission in Afghanistan, review the progress towards burdens and discuss NATO 2030 initiative.

This comes as US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John F. Sopko on Wednesday put light on the importance of United States support to women in Afghanistan and paying no attention to women in the country can lead to tragedy, while explaining his new report, Support for Gender Equality: Lessons from the US Experience in Afghanistan.

He said, “US investment on Afghan women is an investment in Afghanistan’s future.”

“We must not forget the bitter lesson we learned following our previous withdrawal from Afghanistan”, he added, “Cutting off those whom you have previously encouraged to rise up can lead to tragedy not only for them but for our nation as well”.

He said the US should consider conditioning its assistance to demonstrate the commitment to the protection of women and girl’s rights in Afghanistan and encourage international donors for the support.

“I do not believe gender equality is a zero-sum game. The US can continue to play a role in shaping an outcome that preserves gains made by Afghan women and girls by advocating that Afghan women have a meaningful role in the Afghanistan peace negotiations and that any future agreement includes protections for them,” Sopko said.

He added,  “this key question is vitally important in the context of peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and the answer may determine whether the successes and investment in improving the lives of Afghan women and girls will be remembered as a lasting legacy or historical footnote.”

“We cannot be naive about the challenges that women and girls in Afghanistan continue to face. Make no mistake – though they have greater access to health care and education and work as legislators, judges, teachers, health workers, civil servants, journalists, and business and civil society leaders – Afghanistan still remains one of the most challenging places in the world to be a woman,” Sopko mentioned.

SIGAR commissioned field interviews with 65 Afghan (Female and male) from 14 provinces and their viewpoints make “this report truly unique.” 

SIGAR’s new report on women is the first comprehensive, independent government analysis of US efforts to support gender equality in Afghanistan.

This report is the first comprehensive, independent government analysis of United States supporting gender equalities, despite the progress the country still remains a challenging place for women,

Women in Afghanistan still face limited access to education and healthcare, endemic gender-based violence, and high maternal mortality ratios.

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