Czech President Miloš Zeman, who represented the Czech Republic at the North Atlantic Alliance summit in Brussels, was critical of NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.
He warned that if the Taliban would take control over Afghanistan, it could turn the Central Asian country into a new terrorist center. However, according to the summit’s final statement, the withdrawal of troops does not mean that NATO will stop supporting the country but will continue to provide training and funding to the local army.
“At the summit, the president of the Czech Republic, Miloš Zeman, criticized NATO’s departure from Afghanistan. He recalled that Czech soldiers had laid down their lives in Afghanistan in the fight against terrorism. He warned that the Taliban could turn Afghanistan into a new terrorist center after taking control of the country,” stated the President’s spokesperson Jiří Ovčáček on Twitter.
Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhánek also confirmed Zeman’s position, noting that the Czech president considers the withdrawal a mistake.
“Everyone points out that a lot of human lives and money have been spent in Afghanistan, and now we are withdrawing, so what’s next?” added Kulhánek.
However, the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan does not mean, according to the NATO Alliance, that NATO ceases to support the country. It will continue to provide training and funding to the Afghan military, said the summit’s final statement.
“We affirm our commitment to continue to stand with Afghanistan, its people, and its institutions in promoting security and upholding the hard-won gains of the last 20 years. Recalling our previous commitments, NATO will continue to provide training and financial support to the Afghan National Defense and Security Force,” said the statement.
A representative of the NATO Alliance will continue to operate in Kabul, and NATO will also temporarily pay for the operation of an international airport in the Afghan capital. At the summit, however, the Alliance did not agree on who would command the airport after the troops withdraw. Turkey has shown interest in this role.
The government of former US President Donald Trump pledged to completely withdraw US troops in exchange for the Taliban not allowing its members or any other organizations to use Afghan territory to attack the United States and its allies. The end of the US mission in Afghanistan was announced by the current White House chief Joe Biden, with the last troops leaving by Sept. 11, which will be the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Several thousand soldiers from other NATO member countries, including the Czech Republic, are also due to leave by the same date. In this context, there are growing fears that Afghanistan, which has been experiencing years of violence, will fall into even more chaos. Questions remain, for example, on how to protect the embassies of NATO countries or Afghans that have cooperated with NATO troops.
Title image: The president of the Czech Republic Milos Zeman addresses the media during a joint press conference after their meeting at the Hofburg palace with the Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen in Vienna, Austria, Thursday, June 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner)