Nato Will Expand Its Forces In Iraq And Try To Stop The U.S. Withdrawal From Afghanistan

2021-02-18   |   by CusiGO

NATO decided on Thursday to substantially expand its presence in Iraq to curb the resurgence of the terrorist organization Islamic state (ISIS), but failed to dispel doubts about the possible continued presence of international forces in Afghanistan. They held a virtual meeting on Wednesday and Thursday, but so far have not succeeded in changing the timetable of the US plan. Under the leadership of Donald Trump, the US announced its intention to withdraw troops from the conflict ridden country on May 1.

NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg announced after the ministerial meeting: “our training mission in Iraq will be increased from 500 to 4000.”. Allies acknowledge that the increase in operations launched in 2018 is due to the possible resurgence of the Islamic state, a terrorist organization destroyed by Iraqi forces with international support.

Stoltenberg recalled that the Islamic state “occupied a territory the size of Britain with more than 8 million inhabitants.”. The group is in chaos, but attacks on Iraqi territory have doubled in recent weeks. In order to avoid possible expansion, NATO will increase its troops (specially trained Iraqi troops) eightfold and expand its geographical presence throughout the country beyond its current position in the capital. “We always say prevention is better than intervention,” said the league’s top leader.

NATO’s attack in Iraq is in sharp contrast to the United States’ doubts about remaining in Afghan territory. The Atlantic alliance’s operation in Afghanistan (known as strong support since 2015) has about 10000 soldiers from 36 countries. Most (8000) come from European allies. But the US contingent is the largest, with 2500 members (including members of a bilateral mission). Donald Trump and the Taliban have reached an agreement that the US withdrawal may force other allies to do the same and end the 20-year uninterrupted international presence in Afghanistan.

NATO Secretary General and many European allies believe it is too early to leave Afghanistan at a time of escalating violence. However, at the first meeting attended by the new US Secretary of defense, Lloyd Austin, the possibility of withdrawing troops has always been on the table. If this decision is passed, it will endanger the security of the troops remaining in the Central Asian countries.

“We are faced with many difficulties, there are no simple choices, but the final decision has not been made yet.” Stoltenberg talked about the alliance’s doubts about Afghanistan. At a news conference after the military meeting, the Secretary General of the alliance recalled that there was still time to extend the Afghan mission. But the Biden administration’s doubts about the Republicans are still up in the air, a fact that has created uncertainty more than two months after Trump’s deadline.

This week’s ministerial meeting is the first meeting with Austin. His constructive and cooperative tone ended Washington’s hostility to NATO during Donald Trump’s term. However, although the international mission in Afghanistan began after al Qaeda launched an attack on the United States in 2001, the democratic government has not yet committed to continue to garrison troops in Afghanistan.

Stoltenberg insisted in these two days that the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan must be “conditional on the satisfaction of appropriate conditions.”. The Secretary General of the coalition recalled that the mission’s objective was “to prevent Afghan land from becoming a safe haven for terrorists preparing to attack our allies again.”. NATO leaders believe that this goal is at risk if the Taliban does not guarantee its commitment to stabilizing the peace process and stop supporting terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda before leaving the country.

During Barack Obama’s presidency, international operations in Afghanistan were greatly promoted, with 135000 troops. NATO pledged that the mission had contributed to improving the quality of life in the country and had laid the foundation for possible political stability. On January 1, 2011, U.S. special forces killed bin Laden in an operation in Pakistan, and the threat of Al Qaeda weakened.

Starting in 2017, Trump’s goal is to repatriate US troops deployed in many countries, including Afghanistan. In February 2019, the president and the Taliban reached an agreement to set may 1, 2021 as the date for the last batch of US soldiers to leave the country.

“But the commitment to leave Afghanistan is conditional,” Stoltenberg stressed at a meeting of 30 NATO defense ministers on Thursday. Most allies believe that the United States should not leave as long as the Taliban does not honor the agreement reached with trump, including reducing the current widespread and growing violence in Afghanistan. “We have been making joint decisions to adjust our presence, and we must make joint decisions and come together at the right time,” the NATO Secretary General said.

The allies are optimistic to note that Biden’s United States promised at the meeting not to make any unilateral decisions, at least without prior consultation with other countries. During Trump’s term, the threat of surprise seems to have gone away. Some sources even believe that this week’s meeting is the first step for Washington to reconsider the May 1 deadline. But current doubts about the date continue to create uncertainty.