Nato head says 'vigilance' needed in fight against terrorism after Taliban resurgence

17 August 2021, 22:07 | Updated: 17 August 2021, 22:17

Nato's Jens Stoltenberg made the remarks on Tuesday
Nato's Jens Stoltenberg made the remarks on Tuesday. Picture: Alamy

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Nato's Secretary General has warned the alliance needs to "stay vigilant, to stay at the forefront of the fight against international terrorism" following the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan.

Jens Stoltenberg made the remarks on Tuesday after he chaired a meeting to discuss the security implications of the Taliban's sweeping victory in Afghanistan in recent weeks.

At a press conference in Brussels, he said: "In the last two decades there have been no terrorist attacks on allied soil organised from Afghanistan."

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But he said: "Those taking power now have the responsibility to ensure that international terrorists do not regain a foothold.

"(Nato) allies have the capability and the vigilance to address future terrorist threats from Afghanistan."

Nato has been leading international security efforts in Afghanistan since 2003 but ended combat operations in 2014 to focus on training the national security forces.

Mr Stoltenberg blamed a failure of Afghan leadership for the swift collapse of the country's armed forces but said the alliance must also uncover flaws in its military training effort.

He said "parts of the Afghan security forces fought bravely" but "the Afghan political leadership failed to stand up" and that "this failure of Afghan leadership led to the tragedy we are witnessing today".

He said that it "was a surprise, the speed of the collapse and how quickly that happened" before adding "there are lessons that need to be learned" at Nato.

He said the US and its allies faced a "serious dilemma" when deciding whether to withdraw from Afghanistan.

Mr Stoltenberg said: "Ending our military mission was not easy, we were faced with a serious dilemma - either leave and risk seeing the Taliban regain control, or stay and risk renewed attacks and an open-ended combat mission.

"We never intended to stay in Afghanistan forever."

He insisted the Taliban are taking over a "very different" Afghanistan to the one they lost control of in 2001.

"A new generation of men and women have grown up in Afghanistan able to get education, take part in the political process, run their own businesses and enjoy a vibrant media scene," the Nato secretary general said.

"Today's Afghanistan is very different from the Afghanistan of 2001 and those gains cannot be easily reversed.

"The world will be watching and must continue to support a stable and peaceful Afghanistan."

He also insisted the Taliban "must facilitate and respect the safe departure of all those who wish to leave" Afghanistan.

The airport as well as roads and border crossings must remain open, he said.

Around 800 Nato civilian personnel remained in Kabul to maintain operations at the airport as the Taliban advanced, he said.

He said Nato was also maintaining a diplomatic presence in the Afghan capital to co-ordinate the ongoing evacuation process.

"We remain committed to completing evacuations including our Afghan colleagues as soon as possible," he said.