NATO is withdrawing all 10,000 soldiers from Afghanistan. Secretary-General Stoltenberg announced this at a meeting in Brussels. The Dutch military are also leaving the country. The overall retreat takes place following the withdrawal of US and German troops before September 11, exactly 20 years after the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.
Stoltenberg says the withdrawal begins on May 1. He says all troops must be gone in a few months. “The withdrawal will be done in an orderly, coordinated and energetic manner.”
Dutch soldiers have been in Afghanistan since 2002, mainly in the province of Uruzgan and later also in Kunduz. At the moment, more than 160 Dutch soldiers are stationed in the country.
Eighty soldiers to go there
In February, Minister of Defence Bijleveld announced that another eighty Dutch men are going to Afghanistan. The Cabinet still intends to send them even if the Council of Ministers has yet to formally take that decision. Those men are meant to bridge the troop retreat.
The retreat of NATO troops can create an uncertain situation, so the extra troops are sent in the framework of additional security for the troops already present.
Yesterday, American officials reported that President Biden wants to withdraw the troops from Afghanistan. Biden explained that decision today at a meeting of NATO. He wants to start the withdrawal of the military in May, and by September 11, all American troops must have left the country.
“ It‘s time to end America’s longest war,” said Biden, but he added that he does not want to rush. “We are going to do it responsibly, deliberately and safely, and we will do it in full agreement with our allies and partners, who now have more troops in Afghanistan than we do.” The United States now has over 2500 soldiers in Afghanistan.
Sceptical for a long time
The decision to exit is perhaps the most important foreign policy decision for Biden so far, writes the American press agency AP. He‘s been skeptical about the American mission in Afghanistan for much longer. Already during his vice-residency under Obama, Biden insisted on a smaller American role in the fight against terrorism in the country.
The retreat comes at a time when the radical Taliban, expelled after the US-British invasion in 2002, has regained power in large parts of Afghanistan. Moreover, the decision of Biden leads the American military to stay in Afghanistan longer than his predecessor Trump intended. It had agreed with the Taliban and the Afghan Government to leave Afghanistan by 1 May.
At that time, Trump agreed with the strict Islamic movement that they would hold peace talks with President Ghani’s government. Nothing has come of that so far. The Government of Biden has put pressure on both sides to reach a ceasefire and to continue the dialogue.