x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Taliban told international allies will not abandon Afghanistan after 2014

Nato officials in Dubai said the Taliban in Afghanistan must be forced to the negotiating table.

DUBAI // A senior US military chief warned insurgents yesterday not to expect a political or security vacuum in Afghanistan after Nato troops withdraw at the end of 2014.

US Gen John R Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (Isaf), said that the partnership between Afghanistan and the international community would not stop with the Nato withdrawal.

"So if you as the Taliban believe that there would be, on January 1, 2015, this deafening silence across Afghanistan because the international community is gone and you just have your way in Afghanistan - that narrative does not cook any more. It just does not work," he said, speaking on the sidelines of the Afghanistan and Public Affairs conference in Dubai."We are going to be here for a long time, and now, speaking as an American officer, we intend to have a robust military capability in Afghanistan to continue the process of the upwards spiral of Afghan military capability."

Nato is working to build a 352,000-strong Afghan army and police force that can take over responsibility for security in their country.

"The insurgency need to understand that they cannot wait us out," Gen Allen said.

The Nato relationship with Afghanistan post-2014 will be complemented by US, British, French, German and Australian involvement, and the list of co-operating countries is increasing, according to Nato officials.

Ambassador Sir Simon Gass, the Nato Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan, said the Bonn conference, held last week, marked a commitment by the international community to remain engaged with Afghanistan.

"We were talking about a decade of transformation. That was the message coming out of Bonn, that from 2014 to 2024, we would be building on the work that we have done over the past 10 years to start to transform Afghanistan," Mr Gass said.

He also said that if things went the right way in Afghanistan, the country could blossom because of its strategic location and natural resources.

"So the future, if we get this right, there is a very big benefit to be had by the region ... All of the region has a big stake in the outcome in what we are trying to achieve in Afghanistan," he said.

wissa@thenational.ae