NATO defence ministers to discuss Iraq, Afghanistan

NATO’s ministers of defence will today begin a two-day virtual meeting. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will present ministers with a

Photo: Reuters/ Francois Lenoir

NATO’s ministers of defence will today begin a two-day virtual meeting.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will present ministers with a set of proposals in preparations for this year’s Brussels summit. The first meeting with the Biden administration will seek to strengthen the transatlantic alliance after four years of fractious relations under the former Trump administration. Ministers will also address the future of NATO training missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, weighing the possible expansion of military engagement in both nations even after the US agreed to remove the alliance’s 10,000-strong mission from Afghanistan by May 2021.

To assess the possibility of withdrawal, defence ministers will discuss whether the Taliban is complying with commitments made in its February 2020 peace deal. The Kabul attacks in December will likely prompt a delay to the pullout agreed to under the Trump administration, making a final decision in today’s meeting unlikely. The Taliban has warned NATO allies against continued occupation; if Western military powers abrogate the Doha agreement in the medium-term, it will likely lead to a re-escalation of the conflict. Germany, which sustains the second-largest NATO contingent, has hinted that its military mission would be extended beyond its March expiration—expect its retirement of troops to depend on the peace talks’ success.

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