‘We'll not forget them’: Nato chief on Afghans left behind after US troops left
- Nato chief Jens Stolenberg said that the organisation would continue to work with allies, and other countries, to help people leave as the Taliban has “clearly stated” that people will be allowed to depart Afghanistan.
As the Taliban celebrated its victory over the US and other foreign forces following a 20-year battle, Nato secretary general Jens Stolenberg on Tuesday said that Afghans who wished to leave their home country, but were unable to, won’t be forgotten.
In an interview with AFP, Stolenberg noted that it’s vital to keep Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport open – “both to enable humanitarian aid to the Afghan people and also to make sure that we can continue to get people out” – those who wished to but couldn’t make an escape via the military evacuation.
“We will not forget them,” Stolenberg was quoted as saying.
The Nato chief also lauded Turkey, its member, for offering to play a role in operating the Kabul airport as the Taliban attempt to get it functional, and also thanked nearly 800 Nato civilian staff for their help in managing the airlift.
“We will continue to work with Nato allies and other countries to help people leave. The Taliban has clearly stated that people will be allowed to leave, we will judge the Taliban not on what they say, but by what they do,” he pointed out.
Stolenberg also stressed that allied forces would maintain diplomatic pressure on the Islamist insurgents on permitting remaining Afghan nationals who had worked for the foreign forces, and now feel at risk, to leave the country.
Notably, the last US military flight flew out of the Kabul airport late on Monday ending a two-decade-long presence of Western forces in Afghanistan. According to the latest update by the White House, the US and coalition aircraft evacuated over 123,000 civilians that were all “enabled by US military service members.”
“Since August 14, U.S. military aircraft evacuated more than 79,000 civilians from Kabul. This includes 5,526 Americans, and more than 73,500 third country nationals and Afghan civilians. This last category includes SIVs (Special Immigrant Visas), consular staff, at-risk Afghans and their families,” another tweet by the White House on Tuesday morning read.
Stolenberg further stated that Nato will use its “political, diplomatic, [and] economic leverage” to make sure that people are able to still leave Afghanistan. “This is important because the Nato allies have been there for so many years,” he was quoted as saying by AFP.
Going forward, the Nato chief said the 30-member western alliance would have to carefully look as to what went wrong in their mission to build an Afghan government and a military capable enough to dethrone the Taliban.
"These are among the hard questions we have to ask, when we now will have a process where we're going to assess, analyse, and have our lessons learned process in NATO," he added.
Such questions, Stolenberg said, will help them understand “better” – both what went wrong, and also to gauge achievements they made in Afghanistan, “not least when it comes to fighting terrorism.”
A few days before, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid had said that the US troops were taking away “Afghan experts” such as engineers from the country that the insurgents need, and had also asked for the same to be stopped.