Shanahan: US Withdrawal from Afghanistan Won’t Be Unilateral

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan speaks at a Feb. 14, 2019, press conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. Shanahan said Thursday that the US would work with NATO on any planned withdrawal from Afghanistan. NATO photo.

The US will coordinate any planned moves in Afghanistan closely with NATO as peace talks continue with the Taliban and will not leave the fight unilaterally, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Thursday.

President Trump has said he wants to leave the country, and expressed frustration with a lack of progress in the war. Shanahan, speaking at the end of a meeting with NATO defense ministers in Brussels, said any changes “will be coordinated. We’re together.”

The statement comes as US negotiators have met with the Taliban, without representatives from NATO or Afghanistan, to work toward a “framework” for peace.

At the NATO meeting, officials discussed “how do we double down” in support of Afghan forces and “put even more pressure on the Taliban” to create “diplomatic leverage” for the negotiations.

“We need to talk about the possibility for peace, this may be our moment,” Shanahan said. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in his closing speech, said the future of the mission is something the entire organization needs to focus on together.

“We are in this mission together and we will take decisions regarding the future of the mission together,” he said.