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NATO forces to leave Afghanistan together, says US

NATO forces to leave Afghanistan together, says US
April 14, 2021

BRUSSELS/BERLIN (Reuters) – Foreign troops under NATO command will withdraw from Afghanistan in coordination with a US pull-out by Sept. 11, Washington’s top diplomat said on Wednesday, after Germany said it would match American plans to leave after two decades of war.

Around 7,000 non-U.S. forces from mainly NATO countries, also from Australia, New Zealand and Georgia, outnumber the 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but still rely on U.S. air support, planning and leadership for their training mission.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Brussels that it was time for NATO allies to make good on their mantra that allies went into Afghanistan together and would leave together.

“I am here to work closely with our allies, with the (NATO) secretary-general, on the principle that we have established from the start: In together, adapt together and out together,” Blinken said in a televised statement at NATO headquarters.

An integral part of NATO’s current mission, Resolute Support, is to train and equip Afghan security forces fighting the Islamist Taliban, which was ousted from power by a US invasion in late 2001 and has since waged an insurgency.

With non-US troop numbers reaching as high as 40,000 in 2008, Europe, Canada and Australia have moved in tandem with the United States in a mission also providing long-term funding to rebuild Afghanistan despite the resurgence of Taliban-led violence and endemic official corruption in the country.

“We will work very closely together in the months ahead on a safe, deliberate and coordinated withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan,” Blinken said, standing alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

SEPT. 11 ANNIVERSARY

Sept. 11 is a highly symbolic date as it will be 20 years since al Qaeda attacked the United States with hijacked airliners, triggering military intervention in Afghanistan.