Sign up for myFT Daily Digest and be the first to learn about Afghanistan news.
The NATO official warned that the risk of terrorist attacks at Kabul Airport is increasing every day because he described the “dilemma” that countries face when deciding when to end foreign military efforts to airlift personnel out of Afghanistan.
One day after U.S. President Joe Biden chose to stick to his plan to withdraw U.S. troops before the end of the month despite European opposition, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated that the terrorist threat facing the airport is not “theoretical”, but It is “real danger”.
“On the one hand, we want to have as much time as possible for as many people as possible to leave,” Stoltenberg said in an interview. “At the same time… if we go beyond [the] August 31 [deadline], Especially if we don’t get at least some taliban’s acquiescence, the danger will increase [of] attack. “
Stoltenberg described the current effort as one of the largest evacuation attempts in history, adding that about 20,000 people are airlifted from the country every day, including an increasing number of Afghans. He said that when the military process is over, NATO will continue to work to get people away through commercial flights and will urge the Taliban to open up land.
He said the main challenge for NATO members is to get people into the airport instead of operating flights. “Even if we decide to postpone, we still need to let people into the airport. The area around the airport, Kabul and the rest of the country are controlled by the Taliban.”
Brigadier General Dan Branchford, who led the British evacuation at Kabul Airport, told reporters that as the August 31 deadline approaches, British soldiers are “double their efforts” to identify the most dangerous people and bring them to the airport. Blanchford said the evacuees “experienced some very distressing and extreme conditions” on their way to the airport.
A British military official stated that the British army has strengthened barriers around its evacuation processing center, but the threat of Isis-K is still “very high”. The group’s tactics usually include suicide bombings, car bombs, and small arms fire attacks. .
According to the White House, more than 82,300 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan since August 14, all thanks to the continued presence of the US military. The United Kingdom stated that it has evacuated 10,291 people, including 6,308 Afghan partners, 341 embassy staff, and 2,570 British nationals and their families. A British military official said that about 2,000 Afghans eligible for resettlement in the UK, including translators, drivers and others who work with the British army, still want to leave.
The decision of the United States to completely withdraw troops from Afghanistan has raised new questions about the future of the NATO alliance and its heavy dependence on the United States. But Stoltenberg insisted that the “transatlantic ties” remain vital to Europe’s credible defense.
He said that the EU alone will never be able to defend Europe, and pointed out that a large part of NATO’s defense expenditure comes from outside Europe and the importance of non-EU countries in defending the region.
“No matter what happens in Afghanistan, North America and Europe must stand together. This is a clear message from all NATO allies at the foreign ministers’ meeting last week,” he said.
“We are facing a changing global balance of power and the rise of more aggressive Russia and China. As long as North America and Europe stand together, we will be able to meet all these challenges,” he said. “This is important for Europe, but it is also important for the United States.”