Foreign troops under NATO command will leave Afghanistan as part of the drawdown, following the United States’ suit.
“Standing shoulder to shoulder, we have paid a high price in both blood and in treasure. Thousands of our troops from allied and many partner nations, and from Afghanistan, have paid the ultimate price. Many more have been wounded,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a NATO summit in Brussels on Wednesday. “In the light of the U.S. decision to withdraw, foreign and defense ministers of NATO discussed the way forward today and decided that we will start the withdrawal of NATO Resolute Support Mission forces by May 1st.”
The U.S. and the Taliban in February 2020 signed a peace agreement after two decades of fighting. The provisions of the deal include the withdrawal of all American and NATO troops from Afghanistan and a Taliban pledge to prevent al-Qaeda from operating in areas under Taliban control, and talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
The same day that U.S. and Taliban negotiators signed the U.S.-Taliban agreement in Doha, Secretary of Defense Esper, NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani signed a joint declaration in Kabul, Afghanistan. The declaration identifies four goals for achieving peace in Afghanistan and regional stability: Prevent terrorist groups from using Afghanistan as a base for attacks against the United States and its allies, Establish a timeline for withdrawing all foreign troops from Afghanistan, Agree on a political settlement for the future of Afghanistan, following intra-Afghan negotiations and Establish a permanent and comprehensive cease-fire.
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 U.S. invasion in late 2001 and has since waged an insurgency.
More than 2,300 U.S. personnel have been killed and 20,000 wounded in the long-running conflict, which has also claimed the lives of nearly 50,000 Afghan civilians.
U.S. President Joe Biden said it was time “to end America’s longest war.” Around 2,500 American troops plus a further 7,000 from NATO allies would gradually leave the country. The troop pull-down will be completed before the 20th anniversary of 9/11 later this year. September 11 is considered one of the darkest days in U.S. history for a series of airline hijackings and suicide attacks by al-Qaeda left nearly 3,000 people dead.