December 3, 2020

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US troops in Afghanistan: Nato chief warns against hasty withdrawals

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captionJens Stoltenberg has warned a sudden withdrawal could make Afghanistan a platform for terrorism

The head of Nato has warned of a “high price” if US and allied forces leave Afghanistan too quickly.

In a statement, Jens Stoltenberg said the country risked once again becoming a platform for international terrorists to organise attacks.

It follows reports by US media that President Donald Trump may speed up troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and Iraq before he is due to leave office.

President Trump has previously said he wants “all” troops home by Christmas.

He has criticised US military interventions for being costly and ineffective.

But Mr Stoltenberg, secretary general of the Nato military alliance, said on Tuesday: “The price for leaving too soon or in an uncoordinated way could be very high.”

He specifically warned that the Islamic State group could use Afghanistan to rebuild after losing ground in Syria and Iraq.

He added that there were fewer that 12,000 Nato soldiers in the country, “and more than half of these are non-US forces”. Funding for their mission to train and help Afghan security forces had been allocated “through 2024”.

The withdrawal should be finished by 15 January, US media reported, just days before Joe Biden’s inauguration as president.

Military leaders were told at the weekend about the planned withdrawals, according to officials quoted by the Associated Press news agency. An executive order is being drawn up but has not yet been sent to commanders, they added.

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