ANKARA 

The NATO secretary general said on Thursday that the alliance’s presence in Afghanistan is a decision that should be made with consensus.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, Jens Stoltenberg said there will be “costs and challenges” involved, whatever the decision of NATO would be regarding Afghanistan.​​​​​​​

“If we decide to leave, we risk to jeopardize the peace process, we risk to lose the gains that were made in the fight against international terrorism over the last years, and we risk Afghanistan becoming a safe haven for international terrorists,” he told reporters in Brussels.

Stoltenberg added that if NATO decides to stay, there will be risk of increased violence against foreign troops in the war-torn country.

“So my message to all NATO allies is that whatever we decide we need to do together,” he said. “We went into Afghanistan together. We should adjust our presence there together. And when the time is right we should leave together.”

Stoltenberg also called on the Taliban to stick to their commitments, including “breaking all ties with international terrorists, including al-Qaeda,” and “reducing violence.”

Former US president Donald Trump had sharply reduced the number of US troops in Afghanistan, but the new Biden administration said it plans to review the US-Taliban agreement signed last year. The agreement calls for all international troops to pull out in exchange of security guarantees by the Taliban.

NATO’s presence in Afghanistan will be discussed during the defense ministers meeting later this month.

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