Stoltenberg: European allies were consulted over Afghanistan

The NATO Secretary General rejected European complaints that the US administration had not consulted allies about the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan.

“You see different voices in Europe, and some talk about the lack of consultation, but I was present at these meetings,” said Jens Stoltenberg of NATO in an interview with the New York Times released on Friday. “Of course the United States has consulted with European allies, but ultimately each nation has to make its own decision on how to use armed forces.”

Several EU diplomats and heads of state and government have complained about a lack of consultation as the decision to withdraw has raised fears of a terrorist attack on European soil and a possible new wave of asylum seekers knocking on the EU’s door after the 2015 migration crisis.

“When the United States decided to negotiate with the Taliban under the Trump administration and then confirm its withdrawal, it had very little, if any, consultations with its European partners,” said European Council President Charles Michel , in an interview published on Wednesday.

However, Stoltenberg, a former prime minister of Norway, admitted the consultation was somewhat artificial because when the White House decided to withdraw, “it was difficult for other allies to move on without the United States. It wasn’t a realistic option, ”he said.

And he argued that it would have been very difficult “for European allies to go into their parliaments and put more money and more soldiers in danger in Afghanistan to protect the United States”. leaving.

EU diplomats have mixed views about what went wrong. In general, they agree that if the US had decided to leave, it would have been impossible to ask parliaments to send more soldiers and spend more money. But some also say that the discussions in NATO were not open enough.

“There is a real dialogue problem in NATO,” Portuguese Defense Minister João Gomes Cravinho told POLITICO last month. Although he also agreed that Biden was right when he said “there have been no significant protests against it”. [his decision to withdraw U.S. troops], either at the NATO summit in Brussels or at the ministerial meeting of defense and foreign ministers in April, where this question was discussed. “

Stoltenberg also warned of the risk of duplicating the talks to build a European armed force.

The debacle in Afghanistan rekindled a debate among EU member states about strengthening collective defense and, in particular, setting up a rapid reaction force of 5,000 troops. The project is led by France, but the Eastern and Baltic countries have doubts because it could duplicate NATO’s efforts and weaken the alliance.

Stoltenberg reiterated his view that “we have urged that more European allies do more in defense, not as an alternative, but as part of NATO”. And “any attempt to build parallel structures, to duplicate the command structure, will weaken our mutual ability to work together, since we have to prevent duplication of work with scarce resources,” he said.

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