Coalition forces could remain in Afghanistan beyond a deadline for troop withdrawals due to ongoing conditions in the country that senior North American Treaty Organization (NATO) commanders say complicate plans to hand over the country’s defense to Afghan forces.
Reuters reported Sunday that four top NATO official indicated that foreign troops would remain in the country past April, which would violate an accord struck by the Trump administration and Taliban negotiators last year that calls for the removal of all coalition forces by May.
“There will be no full withdrawal by allies by April-end,” one senior NATO official told the news service.
“Conditions have not been met,” the official continued. “And with the new U.S. administration, there will be tweaks in the policy, the sense of hasty withdrawal which was prevalent will be addressed and we could see a much more calculated exit strategy.”
A NATO spokesperson told Reuters that the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan remains “condition-based.”
“No NATO ally wants to stay in Afghanistan longer than necessary, but we have been clear that our presence remains conditions-based,” NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said. “Allies continue to assess the overall situation and to consult on the way forward.”
Violence has continued in Afghanistan despite the accord, and attacks against Afghan security forces and other targets remain common. Afghanistan’s government, which the Taliban does not recognize, has accused the group of retaining ties with al Qaeda and other terror groups.
A spokesperson for the Taliban told Reuters that the group also remains committed to the peace process, even given recent attacks.
“No doubt that if the Doha deal is not implemented there will be consequences, and the blame will be upon that side which does not honor the deal,” they said. “Our expectations are also that NATO will think to end this war and avoid more excuses for prolonging the war in Afghanistan.”
Trump late last year ordered the Pentagon to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500.