NATO chief blames Afghan leaders for country’s collapse
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday said Afghanistan’s political leaders are to blame for the collapse of the country’s government.
“Parts of the Afghan security forces fought bravely. But they were unable to secure the country. Because ultimately, the Afghan political leadership failed to stand up to the Taliban and to achieve the peaceful solution that Afghans desperately wanted. This failure of Afghan leadership led to the tragedy we are witnessing today,” he said in a meeting of NATO envoys.
His comments echo President Biden, who on Monday attributed the swift collapse of Afghanistan to the decision by Afghan political leaders to flee the country on Sunday and a failure by the Afghan military to fight.
Stoltenberg said the NATO allies had agreed to stand behind the U.S. deal with the Taliban last year on troop withdrawal, calling the decision to end the military mission a “serious dilemma.”
“We never intended to stay in Afghanistan forever,” he said. “Over the past few years, from over 100,000 troops we went down to less than 10,000 – and now to zero. But what we have seen in the last few weeks was a military and political collapse at a speed which had not been anticipated.”
Stoltenberg said in his remarks that he is deeply saddened over the Taliban’s swift takeover of Afghanistan. He said NATO’s current focus is on ensuring the safe departure of personnel from allied and partner countries and the safe departure of Afghans who have helped NATO.
“NATO has been working round the clock to maintain operations at Kabul international airport. Around 800 NATO civilian personnel have remained to provide key functions under very challenging circumstances, including air traffic control, fuel and communications. And I would like to thank them,” he said.
He said NATO has maintained its diplomatic presence and called for the Taliban to allow safe evacuations. The U.S. evacuated more than 700 people during the past 24 hours, a White House official said Tuesday, as flights resumed out of Kabul’s international airport.
“The Taliban must respect and facilitate the safe departure of all those who wish to leave. The airport, as well as roads and border crossings, must be open. All Afghan men, women and children deserve to live in safety and dignity. There must be a peaceful transfer of power to an inclusive government. With no revenge or retribution,” he said.
“A government that does not respect the fundamental rights of all Afghans and reinstates the reign of fear risks international isolation,” Stoltenberg added.
The Biden administration is working to evacuate thousands of Americans and Afghans who are at risk of retaliation from the Taliban, and their families, who are stranded in Afghanistan. Biden also acknowledged on Monday that the country fell to the Taliban quicker than anticipated.