dpa/GNA – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is to take part in his first NATO ministerial meeting since taking office in January, part of a European visit that may help reset trans-Atlantic relations that soured under the previous US administration.
“I’ve come here to express the United States’ steadfast commitment to [NATO], which has been the cornerstone of peace, prosperity, stability for the trans-Atlantic community for more than 70 years,” Blinken said at a press conference before Tuesday’s talks.
Foreign ministers of the 30 NATO countries are to meet in person at the military alliance’s Brussels headquarters for the first time in more than a year.
Due to Covid-19 containment measures, the last time NATO foreign ministers met face-to-face was in November 2019.
During the two-day meeting, the ministers are to discuss a set of proposals to reform the military bloc, in preparation for an upcoming summit.
The allies are also set to consult on the future of their Afghan mission, but no decision is expected.
All eyes are on Washington as President Joe Biden decides whether his country will leave the war-torn country within weeks, as per a deal with the radical Islamist Taliban group, or stay put.
Last week, Biden said that it would be “tough” to stick to the May 1 deadline – agreed by his predecessor Donald Trump – to pull out the approximately 2,500 remaining US troops.
Under the deal, the US promised to withdraw all US and international forces from Afghanistan. In return, the Taliban vowed to cut ties with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups and enter into intra-Afghan peace talks.
“Whatever the US ends up doing will be informed by the thinking of our NATO allies,” Blinken said Tuesday.
Roughly 10,000 NATO member or partner-country troops train Afghan security forces at present. This is down from a peak of 100,000, when the Afghan mission was still a combat one.
However, high levels of violence may make withdrawal untenable without further destabilizing the country and jeopardizing strategic gains made during two decades of NATO intervention.
Despite ongoing peace talks between the internationally-backed Afghan government and the Taliban, the group is continuing to refuse a ceasefire.