NATO’s two decade-long involvement in Afghanistan was not a mission to protect Afghanistan by preventing the country to become a sanctuary for terrorists but to protect the US by purging the country of al-Qaeda in the wake of 9/11 attacks when the bloc’s Article 5 was invoked, the secretary general of NATO claimed Wednesday in his interview for with the Spanish daily El País.
Jens Stoltenberg said that after being asked if the hastened US pullout made it an unreliable ally, noting that the alliance’s principle of collective defense was invoked to protect the US as a NATO member and to stop new potential attacks on other allies.
Stoltenberg explained that despite the fact that Afghanistan is a tragedy for the Afghan people, the alliance had achieved its mission to protect the US from terrorist attacks and the Article 5 principle remained intact since their goal wasn’t to protect Afghanistan even though ending the mission was a hard and difficult decision.
Responding to the criticism about the end of evacuation efforts amid the rapid takeover by the Taliban, with the US’ announced withdrawing its final troops for Aug. 31, Stoltenberg noted that extending the efforts without the Taliban’s tactical permission would’ve increased significantly the risk of a terrorist attack.
He pointed that in one of the largest aerial evacuations ever undertaken, NATO allies operate about 80 aircraft per day and have so far managed to evacuate more than 90,000 people with updated efforts to take out about 20,000 people a day.
Their biggest challenge now is getting people to the airport, whose surroundings are controlled by the Taliban as well as the rest of the country.