NATO member Norway has acknowledged that the two-decade war in and occupation of Afghanistan by the Western military alliance has failed to bear a result and bring peace to the war-torn country.
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Tuesday that her country planned to pull out its troops from Afghanistan and that almost 20 years of military action had failed to result in a peaceful solution in the Asian country.
Solberg also warned that the massive withdrawal of foreign forces, in the absence of an intra-Afghan peace deal, would pose a significant threat to the Afghan nation. “Unfortunately, it is far from being a stable state and a peaceful, democratic society,” Solberg said.
She also admitted, “An important lesson from Afghanistan is that the conflict cannot be resolved militarily.”
“Norway plans for a continued diplomatic presence in Kabul,” she said. “But this presupposes that the safety of the employees at the embassy can be safeguarded.”
“If the Taliban were to seize power through violence, we will not be able to support such a regime,” the prime minister added.
Norwegian opposition, which has slammed Norway’s participation and pullout both, said the prime minister “sugarcoated” the Afghan war.
“The prime minister hardly mentioned anything about the people who have been killed, injured, or forced to flee,” said the leader of the opposition Red Party, Bjørnar Moxnes. “The war has completely failed in its attempt to fight terrorism.”
The US attacked Afghanistan in 2001, claiming that the Taliban were harboring al-Qaeda. The invasion removed a Taliban regime from power but prompted widespread militancy and insecurity across the Asian country. The war has taken countless lives, including of Afghan civilians.
All foreign troops were supposed to have been withdrawn from Afghanistan by May 1, as part of an agreement that the US had reached with the Taliban in the Qatari capital, Doha, last year.
But US President Joe Biden last month pushed that date back to September 11.
The Taliban warned that the passing of the May 1 deadline for a complete withdrawal “opened the way for” the militants to take every counteraction they deemed appropriate against foreign forces in the county.
And even though Afghan President Ashraf Ghani urged the Taliban to stop their attacks permanently, the group has intensified its assaults following the end of a three-day ceasefire on Sunday.
Ghani, nevertheless, said on Monday that this government was ready to fight against the Taliban after the full withdrawal of foreign forces.
US eyes international effort to secure Kabul Airport
Meanwhile, US Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Tuesday that Washington and its NATO allies were exploring a possible international effort to help secure the airport in Kabul.
Milley said a secure airport would be essential to ensuring that the United States and European allies could maintain embassies in Afghanistan.
“We are working out the details of how to secure the airport, how to support the Afghan military securing the airport, and what countries are willing to contribute to do that,” he said. “That is one of the keys to maintaining a diplomatic presence.”
The general said NATO chiefs of defense discussed the issue in Brussels on Tuesday, but decisions about any security force deployments by individual countries for the airport would be made later by political leadership.
He did not comment on the size of any international force at the airport.
Milley also said that the US would support Afghan forces until the full withdrawal of their troops from the country.
‘Daesh remains potent force in Afghanistan’
Separately, Acting US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ross Wilson claimed that the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group remained a “potent” force in Afghanistan, and that “that is among many reasons why we continue to provide security and counter-terrorism assistance to the Afghan authorities.”
He also accused the Taliban of breaching agreements in peace talks even as US forces continued their withdrawal.
Wilson said the group had launched “substantial” offensives in recent months against government forces and civilians, “targeting them... in marketplaces and in a whole variety of cities and towns around the country.”
“There is no reason for this... especially if you are engaged in a political process,” he added.
The Pentagon has to remove its last 2,500 forces and another 16,000 civilian contractors from Afghanistan by September 11.
The US military, meanwhile, has sent extra bombers and other assets to the region to ensure US and partner NATO forces remain safe during the withdrawal.
The Pentagon’s Central Command said on Tuesday that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan was between 13 and 20 percents complete.
CentCom said that since Biden ordered the exit in April, it had removed the equivalent of 115 fully loaded C-17 cargo aircraft worth of material from the country, while consigning more than 5,000 pieces of equipment to a Pentagon agency for destruction.
CentCom has also turned over five facilities to the Afghan Defense Ministry, including the Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan, once the second-largest military base in the country for US forces.
The Pentagon refuses to be precise about the speed of the withdrawal and likely final date in order to “preserve operational security.”