Speaking at an assembly of Foreign Ministers from NATO countries, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the United States and NATO should plan on an eventual settlement between the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan.
In his remarks, Tillerson also reaffirmed American commitment to NATO missions in Afghanistan like Operation Resolute Support, a military mission to train, advise, and assist the Afghan government and military forces.
According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers this past weekend was intended to “address NATO’s adaptation to a changing security environment,” and “reaffirm the vital bond between Europe and North America.”
The Trump Administration has made inequitable NATO contributions from member states a central talking point in its recent criticism of the decades-old alliance. In February, Secretary of Defense James Mattis issued an ultimatum to NATO allies, saying the United States would alter its relationship with them should they not meet the previously agreed upon level of commitment of 2% of gross domestic product. Only a small number of the 28 NATO countries currently meet their financial obligations to the alliance.
I owe it to you all to give you clarity on the political reality in the United States and to state the fair demand from my country’s people in concrete terms,” Mattis said. “America will meet its responsibilities, but if your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to the alliance, each of your capitals needs to show its support for our common defense.”
The messaging from the administration, and specifically from President Trump himself, has caused a level of anxiety among those who see NATO as a critical buffer to an increasingly aggressive Vladimir Putin and a Russian military that has been used in several annexations and foreign deployments against the wishes of the international community.
Secretary Tillerson’s comments on a ‘settlement’ to be reached between the Taliban and the Afghan government sheds further light on the Trump Administration’s posture towards lengthy foreign military commitments, a concept candidate Trump routinely criticized during the election campaign. The comments on such a settlement could set the stage for a retrograde of major military forces in the country, and “when successful, ensures that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists.”
Featured image courtesy of US State Department