Jens Stoltenberg of Norway, the NATO defense Secretary-General said today “at this stage, our defense ministers have made no final decision on the future of our presence in Afghanistan.” The NATO defense ministers held a video conference meeting in which no decision was made on whether or when to pull out of Afghanistan.
”As the May 1 deadline is approaching, NATO allies will continue to closely consult and coordinate in the coming week,” Stoltenberg told a news conference. Stoltenberg added, “We are faced with many dilemmas, and there are no easy options.”
“If we stay beyond the first of May, we risk more violence, more attacks against our own troops. But if we leave, then we will also risk the gains that we have made are lost. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin promised to consult with allies and partners on the way forward,” Stoltenberg added.
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said on Wednesday that the Taliban must do more to meet the terms of their 2020 peace agreement with the United States to allow a withdrawal of the foreign troops.
Attacks in Afghanistan, including a bomb that killed the deputy governor of the capital Kabul in December, have prompted members of the U.S. Congress and international rights groups to call for a delay to the pullout, agreed when Donald Trump was U.S. president.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was silent Thursday on whether the Biden administration will commit to a full U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan ahead of a fast-approaching May 1 deadline.
An overnight snowstorm in Washington allowed Austin to delay his first public comments to the press and avoid reporters’ questions that may have unearthed more information.
The rescheduled press conference and Austin’s introduction to the Pentagon press corps is still pending.