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NATO chief vows not to ‘forget’ Afghans left behind

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg attends a NATO foreign ministers video conference following developments in Afghanistan, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, on August 20, 2021. (Francisco Seco/Pool/AFP)
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg attends a NATO foreign ministers video conference following developments in Afghanistan, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, on August 20, 2021. (Francisco Seco/Pool/AFP)

BRUSSELS — NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg says that Kabul airport must be kept open and vows not to forget Afghans left behind when US and allied forces leave.

“It’s essential to keep the airport open, both to enable humanitarian aid to the Afghan people and also to make sure that we can continue to get people out — those who wished to, but were not able to be part of the military evacuation,” he tells AFP in an interview.

“We will not forget them.”

The last US military flight departed from Kabul’s airport last night after a rushed airlift to rescue more than 123,000 allied personnel and Afghans who worked alongside them during the conflict.

But as the Taliban celebrated their victory, the NATO alliance is left to analyze what went wrong in its most important military mission since the Cold War.

And Stoltenberg swears the allies will maintain diplomatic pressure on the Taliban to allow the remaining Afghans, and their families, who worked to help the Western effort and now feel at risk, to leave the country.

Looking forward, Stoltenberg says the 30-member Western alliance will have to look carefully at what went wrong in their mission to build an Afghan government and military capable of holding off the Taliban advance.

“These are among the hard questions we have to ask, when we now will have a process where we’re going to assess, analyze, and have our lessons learned process in NATO,” he tells AFP.

“Because we need to understand better, both what went wrong, but also to analyze achievements we made in Afghanistan, not least when it comes to fighting terrorism.”

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