NATO Secretary General and the Belgian Defence Minister discuss Afghanistan and NATO priorities
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the Belgian Minister of Defence Ludivine Dedonder to NATO Headquarters on Thursday (11 February), ahead of the next week’s meeting of the defence ministers that will take place by secure video conferencing. This was the first meeting between Mr. Stoltenberg and Ms. Dedonder.
The Secretary General thanked the Defence Minister for Belgium’s contributions to NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission, the multinational battlegroups in the Baltic region, and NATO’s training mission in Afghanistan. He also praised the Belgian armed forces for their support to civilian efforts during the pandemic, including with medical equipment, transport, testing and help with vaccinations. He said that this proves once again the importance of investing in defence to keep our militaries strong.
Mr. Stoltenberg and Ms. Dedonder discussed the future of NATO’s presence in Afghanistan, which would be addressed at the meeting of NATO Defence Ministers on 17/18 February. The Secretary General said that NATO now faces a difficult choice: stay and face a continued military engagement or leave and risk that Afghanistan again becomes a safe haven for terrorists. “The Taliban must honour their commitments: reduce violence and cut ties to terror groups. Instead we see unacceptable levels of violence by the Taliban, including against doctors, judges and journalists,” he said. “We went into Afghanistan to prevent another 9/11. We have done that. Whatever path we now choose, we must ensure Afghanistan is never again a base for terrorism.”
The Secretary General and the Belgian Defence Minister also discussed NATO-EU partnership and the NATO 2030 initiative that aims to make the Alliance even stronger for the future. The Secretary General said he looks forward to the NATO summit in Brussels later in the year.