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NATO won’t let Afghanistan become ‘haven for terrorists’: Stoltenberg

In this file photo, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg holds a news conference during a NATO defense ministers meeting at the Alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on February 10, 2016. (Reuters)
BRUSSELS: NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday welcomed US President Donald Trump’s plan to send additional troops to Afghanistan, saying the alliance would not let the country become a haven for terrorists.
“Our aim remains to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists who would attack our own countries,” he said in a statement.
“I welcome President Trump’s new, conditions-based approach to Afghanistan and the region,” Stoltenberg added, noting that NATO has over 12,000 soldiers stationed in the country.
Trump on Monday cleared the way for the deployment of thousands more US troops to Afghanistan, backtracking from his promise to swiftly end America’s longest war, begun after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.
He said that pulling out of Afghanistan would leave a “vacuum” that terrorists “would instantly fill.”
He did not specify how many soldiers could be sent, but said the assistance was “not a blank check” for the Afghan government.
“We are not nation building again. We are killing terrorists,” Trump said.
Stoltenberg reiterated that NATO had transferred security responsibilities to Afghan forces in 2014, saying the country now had about 350,000 soldiers and police.
More than 15 countries had pledged additional contributions to the alliance’s mission in the country, he said.
“I am looking forward to discussing the way ahead with Secretary Mattis and our Allies and international partners,” Stoltenberg said, referring to US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.