NATO chief backs Afghan-led peace talks

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KABUL: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday called on the Taliban and other insurgent groups to stop killing their fellow Afghans, saying they must sit down at the negotiating table.
“That is why allies strongly welcomed President Ghani’s peace proposal and the successful June ceasefire,” the NATO chief told a joint press conference with President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul.
Stoltenberg arrived in Kabul on Tuesday to meet President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and some others political figures during his two-day trip.
The NATO chief is accompanied by Chairman of the Military Committee, Air Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, and the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Curtis Scaparrotti.
Speaking at his joint presser with Ghani, Stoltenberg said the use of suicide bombers in urban areas and indiscriminate use of roadside bombs demonstrated ‘a careless disregard for civilian lives.”
“The Taliban must understand that continuing the fight is pointless and counterproductive.”
He said the potential for peace in Afghanistan was greater now than it had been in many years. “So we need an Afghan-led and an Afghan-owned peace process and it must be inclusive.”
He said they also counted on the Kabul government to meet its commitments for good governance, the rule of law, fighting corruption and protecting the rights of all – especially women.
“NATO stands with Afghanistan because stability in this country is important for your security, but also for our security. We stand together in the fight against international terrorism.”
Stoltenberg also asked all countries in the region to play a constructive role and to deny safe haven to extremist groups.
He also congratulated the people of Afghanistan on the recent parliamentary elections, saying four million people voted, a third of whom were women.
“In the face of Taliban threats, the Afghan people showed determination to stand and be counted – with resilience and courage.”
He said effective security was important to safeguard democracy and for the first time, the Afghan forces assumed full responsibility for security during the elections. “This is an important achievement. I look forward to a smooth completion of the election process and to the presidential election in the spring of next year.”
Stoltenberg said NATO was determined to see Afghanistan succeed and prevent the country from ever again becoming a safe haven for international terrorism.
“In our meeting today, I made clear that NATO’s support will continue. At the NATO Summit we decided to sustain our presence until conditions indicate a change is appropriate and to extend financing to the Afghan forces through 2024.”
He said NATO support was improving Afghan Special Forces and Air Forces in particular.
“There are now more than 20,000 Afghan Special Operations Forces — among the very best in this region. And last year, the Afghan Air Force conducted more than 2,000 missions.”
He said he and President Ghani discussed the security situation in the country and noted the situation remained serious.– Agencies

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