The defense ministers of the North Atlantic Alliance nations will discuss plans for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan at next week’s meeting; no final decision has been made at this time.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs John Kirby said at a regular briefing for reporters on Feb. 12.
“There is no doubt that the ministerial meeting will discuss the NATO mission in Afghanistan. Secretary [of Defense Lloyd Austin] is looking forward to it,” he said when asked whether Washington intends to revise plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan as part of the peace agreement with the radical Taliban (banned in Russia).
According to Kirby, the discussion that will take place at this meeting will “obviously affect the way the Pentagon chief is thinking” on this issue. The Defense Department spokesman made it clear that it will also affect what recommendations Austin gives to U.S. President Joe Biden. Kirby assured that the U.S. does not intend to make any decisions “without proper consultations” with allies and partners.
The Pentagon spokesman noted that the U.S. side “continues to evaluate” the agreements with the Taliban, including “the extent to which the parties are complying with them.”
On Feb. 29, 2020, the previous U.S. government, led by President Donald Trump, and the Taliban signed a peace agreement in Doha. Under the agreements, the United States, its allies, and the coalition commit to withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan within 14 months. The Taliban, in turn, guarantees that they will not use Afghan territory for actions that threaten the security of the United States and its allies.
The U.S. operation in Afghanistan has continued since October 2001, it was the longest foreign military campaign in American history. At its peak in 2010-2013, Western forces in Afghanistan numbered more than 150,000 troops. Major U.S. and NATO combat forces were withdrawn from Afghanistan in 2014.
The current U.S. government has previously warned that it will make further decisions on Afghanistan, including the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country, after assessing how the Taliban comply with the terms of peace agreements.