Keeping Kabul airport open – a key test in the withdrawal of NATO forces – Journal


WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw his troops from Afghanistan by 9/11 has left Washington and its allies scrambling to find a way to protect remaining diplomats and officials.

Announcing the end of the United States’ “war forever” in April, Biden vowed that his administration would “determine what a continued American diplomatic presence in Afghanistan would look like” and how to keep it safe.

The main challenge facing Western officials today is maintaining security at Kabul airport – the vital link between foreign embassies clustered in the city’s walled “green zone” and the outside world.

US plans international effort to help secure airport, currently occupied by Turkey, after withdrawal

As fears mount over a return of the Taliban after the departure of US and allied troops from NATO after nearly two decades on the ground, big questions remain unanswered about how to maintain a vital installation for the Afghans and the United Nations. foreigners. “This is one of the keys to maintaining a diplomatic presence,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said after a discussion with other NATO military leaders in Brussels.

“So we are working on the details of securing the airport, how to support the Afghan army in securing the airport and countries that are ready to contribute. And there has been a lot of talk about it.

According to him, a secure airport would be essential to ensure that American and European allies can maintain embassies in Afghanistan.

Milley said NATO defense chiefs discussed the issue in Brussels on Tuesday, but decisions on any deployment of security forces by individual countries for the airport would be taken later by political leaders.

The leaders of the 30 NATO countries could make more decisions on future plans for Afghanistan when they meet on June 14 at a summit in Brussels, he noted.

However, he declined to speculate on the size of any international force at the airport.

“I think NATO and others are working on this in various working groups to see what the exact number will be. These figures are not known at the moment, ”he said. For now, the strategy remains on hold.

A NATO official told AFP only that the alliance “remains committed to its lasting partnership with Afghanistan and to supporting support for the Afghan security forces.” “We are now reviewing the details of how we can continue to provide support,” the official said.

The Pentagon estimates that it takes around 1,000 to 1,500 troops to provide security at the airport, currently run by NATO member Turkey, with the support of Afghan troops.

As foreign troops watch the exit door, Afghan special forces are seen as the only local contingent capable of handling the task. But if the Taliban continues their offensive, those troops would likely be needed elsewhere to help prevent government collapse.

US and EU officials say several other options are being considered to try to protect the airport. These include ensuring that civilian contractors provide security, that some countries agree to remain independent from NATO or to look to the United Nations. – AFP

Posted in Dawn on May 20, 2021


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