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NATO Chief Says Afghan Pullout Progressing In 'Orderly Way' Amid Continued Violence

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg gives a press conference ahead of an online NATO foreign and defense ministers' meeting at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels on May 31.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said the military alliance’s exit from Afghanistan is “progressing in an orderly and coordinated way” ahead of a planned complete pullout by September 11.

“At every step, the safety of our personnel remains paramount,” Stoltenberg told reporters on June 1 after chairing virtual meetings of NATO’s foreign and defense ministers.

“We are ending our military mission, but we are not ending our support to the Afghans," he also said, amid fears that the Taliban could topple the Western-backed government in Kabul and its battered security forces once international forces leave after two decades of war.

Violence has soared across Afghanistan since the start of the international military withdrawal. On June 1, officials said at least eight people were killed in a series of attacks in the capital, Kabul.

NATO's departure from Afghanistan will figure high on the agenda of a summit in Brussels on June 14.

Major issues remain over how the 30-nation alliance will continue to fund the corruption-ridden Afghan security forces, whether to continue training special forces troops somewhere outside the country, and what forces will protect civilian workers, embassies, and the Kabul airport.

While NATO troops will no longer be in Afghanistan, the alliance and its partners will continue to provide funding to what Stoltenberg described as the country’s “capable, strong security force.”

NATO “will continue our civilian diplomatic presence in Kabul to provide advice and capacity-building support to Afghan security institutions,” he also said.

“We are also looking at how we can provide military education and training outside Afghanistan focused on special operation forces, and are working on how to fund the provision of services enabling allies and the international community to stay in Kabul, including support for the airport.”

Fewer than 9,000 foreign troops remain in Afghanistan, including up to 3,500 U.S. personnel.

With reporting by AP
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