Afghanistan: NATO chief renews talks offer to Taliban

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg meets Afghan leadership in capital Kabul

Afghanistan: NATO chief renews talks offer to Taliban

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday visited the Afghan capital Kabul amid renewed push for peaceful settlement of the conflict in the country.

The NATO secretary general was flanked by the Chairman of the Military Committee Air Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, and Supreme Allied Commander Europe Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti.

Speaking at a joint news conference with President Ashraf Ghani, Stoltenberg pledged NATO’s continued support for the war-ravaged country.

“NATO is determined to see Afghanistan succeed. That’s why around 16,000 troops from 39 different countries serve in our Resolute Support Mission. Together, we train, advise and assist the Afghan forces as they work to make this country safer and more secure,” he said.

Stoltenberg acknowledged the situation in Afghanistan after 17 years of war still remains “serious.”

“Afghan soldiers and police are on the front lines of this conflict. Many are killed or wounded every week. And I pay tribute to their bravery and loyalty. The insurgents have also killed scores of Afghan civilians,” the NATO chief said.

Calling on the Taliban to “sit down at the negotiable table,” Stoltenberg said the fight is “pointless and counterproductive.”  

For his part, the Afghan president hailed and supported the U.S. efforts for peaceful solution to the conflict.

“Last night, I directed all governors to form peace councils from all segments of the society for actual talks, and the day is not far off when we would commence these [peace] talks,” Ghani said.

He also highlighted the bravery and commitment of the Afghan forces in fulfilling the security responsibilities of the country since the end of NATO-led combat mission and exit of more than 100,000 foreign troops in 2014.

The Afghan government has announced to form a national consultative board for expediting peace efforts.

Shah Hussain Murtazavi, spokesman for the president, told the local Azadi radio that representatives of the civil society and religious leaders from all 34 provinces have been invited to come and meet the technical team for peace talks in Kabul.

This is in line with the U.S. Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad’s call on the Afghan government and the Taliban to come up with authorized teams of negotiators for peace talks.

The NATO secretary general also met with the Resolute Support Commander Gen. Austin Scott Miller, NATO's Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan Ambassador Cornelius Zimmermann and with troops contributing to the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission.