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NATO debates mission-dragging lessons in Afghanistan

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, second right, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics, second left, Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer, right, and NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana attends NATO Foreign Ministers meeting in Riga, Latvia, Tuesday, November 30, 2021. (AP Photo / Roman Koksarov, Pool)

RIGA, Latvia (AP) Less than three months after the chaotic evacuation of US-led troops from Afghanistan, NATO foreign ministers met on Wednesday to debate a swiftly drafted report on lessons to be learned from the presence of 18- year of security of military organizations in conflict- destroyed country.

NATO took over the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan in 2003, almost two years after a US-led coalition invaded the country to oust the Taliban for harboring Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader shot dead in Pakistan. in 2011.

He helped create an Afghan army that was said to have about 300,000 troops, although the force was so corrupt that even the true number of troops was unclear. Whatever its size, that army was said to be in just a few days in August in the face of a Taliban offensive.

In late August, more than 100,000 people were evacuated from Kabul during the raging last days of a U.S. airlift after President Joe Biden said U.S. troops would leave. Thousands of Afghans remained, desperate to escape the insecurity of Taliban rule.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg suggested before the meeting that the security operation fell victim to the mission’s procrastination as the military alliance allowed itself to be dragged down to help rebuild the impoverished country.

NATO entered Afghanistan to prevent terrorists from using the country again to attack us, Stoltenberg said, but despite this success, we must acknowledge that, over the years, the international community set a level of ambition that went beyond the original purpose of combat. of terrorism. .

And for that, we were not able to give, he said.

Security efforts cost the United States alone $ 2.3 trillion, and the cost in life includes 2,324 U.S. troops and 1,144 personnel among U.S. allies, according to figures from Brown University. NATO keeps records of those who die in its operations.

These casualty figures have been diminished by Afghan losses, which include more than 46,000 civilians, about 69,000 members of the national armed forces and police, and over 52,000 opposition fighters.

The actual work of identifying lessons was handled by 30 NATO Deputy National Envoys, under the direction of Assistant Secretary General for Operations John Manza, with the participation of several experts. The report does not require a vote. NATO makes decisions unanimously and Manza said it would be impossible to find consensus on such a document.

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Lorne Cook reported from Brussels.

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