The NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday reaffirmed the alliance’s longstanding cooperation with the Afghan security forces, saying the alliance was committed to the train, assist and advise mission to ensure a capable and strong Afghan force that could tackle the security challenges facing the country.
Addressing a joint press conference with President Ashraf Ghani, after a meeting between the two leaders in Kabul, Stoltenberg called on the Taliban to stop killing the people and to stop sending suicide bombers in to residential areas.
He reiterated that the Taliban must realize that the war does not benefit anyone.
On the topic of October 20 parliamentary elections in Afghanistan, the NATO chief said: ““For the first time, the Afghan forces assumed responsibility for security during the election,” he said, calling it “an important achievement”. He added: “I look forward to a smooth completion of the election process, and to the presidential election in the spring of next year.”
He said that peace was important both to Afghanistan and the international community, adding that the alliance is committed to crushing the terrorists and making sure that Afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for terror groups.
On the casualty increase among Afghan security forces, Stoltenberg said: “We have asked the ministry of interior and defense to take steps and decrease fatalities among Afghan forces. One of the reasons for the increased fatalities is that it is now Afghan forces that are taking the security responsibility of the entire country.
"We want to have more military advisors in Afghanistan and pour more support into Afghan forces to curb casualties, he said.
Stoltenberg said it’s important to send a clear message to the Taliban to think about peace rather than war, because they can’t win through war.
Stoltenberg praised the Afghan forces for their bravery and loyalty, and called on the Taliban and other insurgent groups to “stop killing their follow Afghans”.
He added: “The Taliban must understand that continuing the fight is pointless and counterproductive. To be part of Afghanistan’s future, they must sit down at the negotiating table.”
Stoltenberg underlined that NATO’s support for Afghanistan will continue, saying: “NATO is determined to see Afghanistan succeed. That’s why around 16,000 troops from 39 countries serve in our Resolute Support Mission.”
He welcomed the fact that the mission’s work has led to particular improvements in the Afghan Special Forces and Air Force.
He further stressed the need for an inclusive Afghan-owned and led peace process, saying: “The potential for peace is greater now than it has been in many years”.
“We count on the government to meet its commitments for good governance, rule of law, fighting corruption and protecting the rights of all - especially women.”
He stated that NATO is not directly involved in the peace process but cooperates with the Afghan government to create the platform for peace.
Meanwhile, President Ashraf Ghani also hailed NATO’s military and financial cooperation with Afghanistan and said that Afghanistan and NATO have become two strong partners.
We pay tribute to NATO soldiers who have lost their lives in Afghanistan, he said.
Ghani said that now, “we can say with pride that Afghanistan and NATO have become partners and this partnership is crucial for international peace”.
Ghani also defended his reforms agenda in the structure of the Afghan security institutions and said: “We thank NATO for its support to Afghanistan. We have brought significant reforms in structure of our security forces.
On elections he noted: “ We held successful parliamentary elections and our forces played a key role in safeguarding the elections. Presidential elections will be held on time.”
On war and peace Ghani said: “Afghan people want peace, but the war has been imposed on the country. “We need cooperation on a regional and international level to expedite the process of peace and find a political solution to the conflict”.
Ghani also said that the Afghan government leads the peace process based on his efforts, adding that he was responsible for offering unconditional talks; “I announced a ceasefire which was an unprecedented move, we had the support of clerics and we achieved good results.”