Around 14,000 US troops are in Afghanistan, just over half with NATO and the rest doing counter-terror and combat operations. The US and NATO troops are mostly advising and training, but when requested they assist Afghan forces in battles with the Taliban, who carry out near-daily assaults on Afghan soldiers and police.
More than 17 years after they were ousted by a US-led coalition, the Taliban control, influence or hold sway over nearly half the country, and the conflict is at a stalemate as far as Western Countries are concerned.
Frustrated with America’s longest war, US President Donald Trump says he wants to pull out troops, raising doubts about NATO’s Afghan troop training operation in the strife-torn country. NATO defence ministers have weighed the future of the alliance’s operation in Afghanistan and debated how best to use its military presence to support political talks aimed at ending the conflict.
NATO is wary of setting any timeline for a possible withdrawal as the Taliban have been content to wait international forces out in the past. “NATO allies went in together in Afghanistan. We will make decisions on our future posture in Afghanistan together, based on conditions determined together with the Afghans. No decision has been taken about any withdrawal. But we strongly support the efforts to reach a political, peaceful settlement,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said before the talks on Thursday.
Here Stolenberg should now add that all decisions will be taken in conjunction with India.What is clear is that the 29-country military alliance has no shared appetite to shift from training and mentoring to counter-terrorism operations.
There is a added piece of advice for NATO. This area lies within the area of interest of India, which sooner or later is going to assert itself. So it will be in the interest of NATO that to approach India with their plan of Withdrawal and work on the finer details together.
For the moment though it is too early to tell. Upcoming elections in Afghanistan will further complicate the picture for NATO, as those polls decide what parties should be involved in peace moves.