NATO chief warns of high price if troops leave Afghanistan

NATO has fewer than 12,000 troops from dozens of nations in Afghanistan, with US troops frequently making up about half that number. (Reuters)
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Updated 17 November 2020

NATO chief warns of high price if troops leave Afghanistan

  • NATO has fewer than 12,000 troops from dozens of nations in Afghanistan
  • US soldeirs frequently make up about half that number

BRUSSELS: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned Tuesday that the military organization could pay a heavy price for leaving Afghanistan too early, after a US official said President Donald Trump is expected to withdraw a significant number of American troops from the conflict-ravaged country in coming weeks.
NATO has fewer than 12,000 troops from dozens of nations in Afghanistan helping to train and advise the national security forces. US troops frequently make up about half that number, and the 30-nation alliance relies heavily on the United States armed forces for transport, logistics and other support.
“We now face a difficult decision. We have been in Afghanistan for almost 20 years, and no NATO ally wants to stay any longer than necessary. But at the same time, the price for leaving too soon or in an uncoordinated way could be very high,” Stoltenberg said in a statement.
He said the country still “risks becoming once again a platform for international terrorists to plan and organize attacks on our homelands. And Daesh (Islamic State) could rebuild in Afghanistan the terror caliphate it lost in Syria and Iraq.”
The US decision comes just days after Trump installed a new slate of loyalists in top Pentagon positions who share his frustration with the continued troop presence in the war zones. The expected plans would cut US troop numbers almost in half by Jan. 15, leaving 2,500 troops in Afghanistan.
US officials said military leaders were told over the weekend about the planned withdrawal and that an executive order is in the works but has not yet been delivered to commanders.
NATO took charge of the international security effort in Afghanistan in 2003, two years after a US-led coalition ousted the Taliban for harboring former Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. In 2014, it began to train and advise Afghan security forces, but has gradually pulled troops out in line with a US-brokered peace deal.
Stoltenberg said that “even with further US reductions, NATO will continue its mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces. We are also committed to funding them through 2024.”
NATO’s security operation in the country is its biggest and most ambitious undertaking ever. It was launched after the military alliance activated its mutual defense clause — known as Article 5 — for the first time, mobilizing all the allies in support of the United States in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.
“Hundreds of thousands of troops from Europe and beyond have stood shoulder to shoulder with American troops in Afghanistan, and over one thousand of them have paid the ultimate price,” Stoltenberg said.
“We went into Afghanistan together. And when the time is right, we should leave together in a coordinated and orderly way. I count on all NATO allies to live up to this commitment, for our own security,” he said.


Heavily armed man arrested at Washington security checkpoint

Updated 37 min 55 sec ago

Heavily armed man arrested at Washington security checkpoint

WASHINGTON: A heavily armed man has been arrested in Washington at a security checkpoint near the US Capitol, where President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated next week, authorities said.
Wesley Allen Beeler, of Virginia, was taken into custody after police found him with a handgun and more than 500 rounds of ammunition, shotgun shells and a magazine for the gun, according to a police report obtained by AFP.
He had tried to pass through the checkpoint using fake inaugural credentials, CNN reported, citing a law enforcement source.
Washington is under a high state of alert ahead of Biden’s Wednesday inauguration, after a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6.
Five people died in the assault, including a police officer.
Security officials have warned that armed pro-Trump extremists, possibly carrying explosives, pose a threat to Washington as well as state capitals over the coming week.
Thousands of National Guard troops have been deployed in Washington and streets have been blocked off downtown with concrete barriers.
The National Mall, which is normally packed with people every four years for presidential inaugurations, has been declared off-limits at the request of the Secret Service, which ensures the security of the president.