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NATO Chief Warns Taliban Against Turning Afghanistan Into Terrorist Safe Haven Again

BELGIUM -- NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg speaks as he attends a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister during a NATO summit, at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels, June 14, 2021

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has warned the Taliban that the militant group cannot allow Afghanistan to once again become a breeding ground for terrorism after the militants seized power over the weekend.

"Those now taking power have the responsibility to ensure that international terrorists do not regain a foothold," Stoltenberg told a news conference in Brussels on August 17.

He said that, although NATO has withdrawn its forces from Afghanistan, the alliance will remain on alert for signs that terrorist groups are regrouping there and could strike from a distance.

Stoltenberg said NATO had been surprised by the speed of the Taliban victory but blamed Afghan leaders for the unfolding "tragedy," echoing U.S. President Joe Biden's statement a day earlier.

"Part of the Afghan security forces fought bravely. But they were unable to secure the country because ultimately the Afghan political leadership failed to stand up to the Taliban and to achieve the peaceful solution that Afghans desperately wanted," he said.

"This failure of the Afghan leadership led to the tragedy we are witnessing," Stoltenberg added, noting that NATO's aim was to help build a viable state, not to maintain a permanent presence there.

A crying female Afghan journalist voiced fear for the women's situation in the country and begged NATO not to recognize the Taliban, prompting Stoltenberg to pledge that the West will try to hold the group accountable for respecting human rights.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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