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NATO allies to begin withdrawal from Afghanistan

April 14, 2021

NATO countries plan to work together to pull their troops out of Afghanistan, after the US announced it would "end America's longest war" by September 11.

US soldiers in Afghanistan
US soldiers, part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), walk near Kabul, AfghanistanImage: Hoshang Hashimi/AP Photo/picture alliance

NATO allies on Wednesday agreed to wind down their operations in Afghanistan, after President Joe Biden's administration announced all US troops would leave the country by September 11. The US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks by jihadist organization al-Qaida, with other NATO countries also deploying military forces to the South Asian country.

"NATO allies have decided to start withdrawing Resolute Support forces by May 1, in an orderly, coordinated and deliberate way," NATO Secretary General Jen Stoltenberg announced during a summit in Brussels. "We will continue to stand with Afghanistan, this marks a new chapter in our relationship."

"We went into Afghanistan together, we have adjusted our posture together and we are united in leaving together," Stoltenberg said.

"The US will never forget the solidarity our NATO allies have shown every step of the way," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said after Stoltenberg's comments. 

There are currently about 10,000 NATO soldiers still left in Afghanistan. If the Taliban decides to attack any NATO troops during withdrawal process, they will "be met with a forceful response," the alliance has said.

Biden says there will be no 'rush' to exit

Earlier in the day, President Joe Biden formally announced the troop withdrawal during an address from the White House. He said the move would begin on May 1 and conclude by September 11.

"It's time to end America's longest war," Biden said during the speech, adding that the US will "not conduct a hasty rush to exit."

"This is a historic moment, and could be President Biden's most consequential foreign policy decision," DW Washington Bureau Chief Ines Pohl said. "We have to keep in mind this war has been going on for 20 years."

US President Biden: I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth president

US, Germany to coordinate closely on withdrawal

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Biden spoke by phone on Wednesday to discuss the withdrawal.

"The chancellor and the president exchanged views on the situation in Afghanistan and how to proceed with the NATO troop presence," government spokesperson Steffan Seibert said about the phone call, adding the two leaders committed to close cooperation in their policies towards the country.

Afghan president says security forces up to challenge

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Wednesday he also spoke with Biden about the pullout plans. 

"The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan respects the US decision and we will work with our US partners to ensure a smooth transition," Ghani tweeted. "Afghanistan's proud security and defense forces are fully capable of defending its people and country."

wd/dj (AP, dpa)