European soldiers of the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission (RSM) in Afghanistan will not be withdrawn from this war-torn country in May under a conditional peace agreement signed by the Trump administration and the insurgent Taliban in February of last year.
RSM commanders on Sunday said the stepped-up pace of Taliban attacks on the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), even as the U.S. pulled out most of its troops, makes any NATO withdrawal dangerous and destabilizing.
There are still some 7,500 NATO troops deployed to Afghanistan. These men are tasked with training, advising and assisting Afghan security forces and institutions combat extremist groups such as the Taliban, the Haqqani network and ISIS-K. There were once up to 16,000 NATO troops on Afghan soil representing 37 European countries.
"There will be no full withdrawal by allies by April-end," said one of the NATO officers to Reuters. "Conditions have not been met," he said, referring to the conditional agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban.
"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."
NATO continues to call on all sides to "seize this historic opportunity for peace," said NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu. "No NATO ally wants to stay in Afghanistan longer than necessary, but we have been clear that our presence remains conditions-based,"
She also said NATO continues to assess the overall situation and to consult on the way forward. NATO also fully supports the Afghanistan peace process "in order to ensure that Afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for terrorists that would attack our homelands," she said.
It's also highly likely the remaining 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan won't be withdrawn by May. President Joe Biden has launched a review of Trump's widely criticized "peace agreement," which has led to a massive rise Taliban attacks and assassinations in contravention of the agreement.
A Pentagon spokesman said the Taliban have not met their commitments. On the other hand, the U.S. remains committed to the peace process.
Biden′s new national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, last month said the United States will review Trump's "Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan" to determine the feasibility of pulling out the remaining 2,500 U.S. troops by May.
The agreement calls for the withdrawal of all foreign troops in return for the insurgents fulfilling certain security guarantees. Trump's agreement, however, did not include the Afghan government in his attempt to fast-track the peace process and fulfill one of his campaign promises.