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NATO stresses Afghan commitment despite US withdrawal

NATO's spokeswoman Oana Lungescu would not comment on US President Donald Trump's plan to bring home a chunk of the 14,000 US troops deployed in Afghanistan.

Published: 21st December 2018 06:05 PM  |   Last Updated: 21st December 2018 06:05 PM   |  A+A-

Image of NATO forces for representational purpose (File Photo | AP)

By AFP

BRUSSELS: The NATO alliance stressed its continued commitment to its support mission in Afghanistan on Friday as Washington prepared to withdraw thousands of US troops.

NATO's spokeswoman Oana Lungescu would not comment on US President Donald Trump's plan to bring home a chunk of the 14,000 US troops deployed in Afghanistan.

But she said NATO foreign ministers met as recently as this month to express "steadfast commitment to ensuring long-term security and stability in Afghanistan."

READ | US plans withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan: Officials

"Our engagement is important to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists who could threaten us at home," she said.

Some of the US forces deployed in Afghanistan are part of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission, training and advising the local Afghan forces fighting Taliban rebels.

Others are part of a US-led counter-terrorism mission, and it is not clear from initial reports which of the troops will be the first to come home.

A US official told AFP that a "decision has been made. There will be a significant withdrawal."

Separately, the Wall Street Journal and other US media reported that more than 7,000 troops would return.

"We have seen the reports. For any comments, I refer you to the US authorities," Lungescu said.

Trump has often been at loggerheads with fellow NATO leaders, accusing European allies like Germany of not pulling their weight in terms of defence spending.

But in July, at a NATO summit, all members agreed to extend funding for the embattled Afghan security forces until 2024.

For many NATO members, the most reassuring figure in the US administration was defence secretary and former Marine Corps general Jim Mattis, who dramatically resigned on Thursday.

"Secretary Mattis has made a key contribution to keeping NATO strong and ready to deal with the significant security challenges we face," Lungescu said.

"He is widely respected as a soldier and a diplomat... We are grateful for the iron-clad commitment of the United States to NATO. US leadership keeps our transatlantic alliance strong."

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