NATO chief warns against premature Afghan withdrawal



NATO chief warns against premature Afghan withdrawal London: If Western forces leave Afghanistan prematurely, the country would become a safe haven for terrorist groups and it would run the risk of the entire region becoming destabilise, the NATO chief has warned.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the NATO secretary-general, is insisting that Western nations must keep troops in Afghanistan "as long as necessary" and not set clear timelines for withdrawal.

"If we were to leave Afghanistan prematurely, the Taliban would return and Afghanistan would once again become a safe have for terrorist groups who would use it as a launch pad for terrorist attacks on North America and Europe."

"There would also be a risk of destabilising a neighbouring country, Pakistan, a nuclear power. That would be very dangerous," the NATO chief told the paper.

While sharing the "impatience" of Western leaders to leave Afghanistan, Rasmussen said: "We can have our hopes, we can have our expectations, but I cannot give any guarantee as far as any exact date or year is concerned."

NATO and the US have more than 140,000 troops in Afghanistan with another 10,000 due in coming weeks as the Western forces prepare for a major onslaught to clear Taliban from their heartland of Kandahar.

The NATO chief said the coming battle for Kandahar as well as ongoing one for Helmand would be decisive turning point in Afghanistan.

"If they lose Helmand and Kandahar, they lose everything, so they will fight hard to prevent that happening.

PTI