NATO forces to leave together from Afghanistan

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A coalition of NATO-led troops in Afghanistan will leave the country in coordination with a planned U.S. withdrawal by Sept. 11, Washington’s top diplomat said on Wednesday, ahead of a formal announcement of the end of two decades of fighting.

Around 7,000 non-U.S. forces from mainly NATO countries, but 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 its 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.

“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,

NATO foreign and defence ministers will discuss their plans later on Wednesday via video conference. A senior NATO diplomat told Reuters that no ally was expected to oppose U.S. President Joe Biden’s formal announcement, expected later on Wednesday, for a complete U.S. withdrawal of troops by Sept. 11.

Photo: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference with transatlantic alliance NATO’s chief at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, 14 April 2021. Foreign ministers of the US, Britain, France and Germany hold talks on Afghanistan, after the United States announced the withdrawal of all its troops from the country by September 11. EPA-EFE/KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / POOL