By Shadi Khan Saif
KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) - A peace agreement with the Taliban in Afghanistan appears closer than ever before, said NATO Secretary General on Wednesday.
Addressing a press conference ahead of the NATO Defense Ministers' meeting in Brussels, Jens Stoltenberg underlined the need of political and military support for Afghanistan to achieve sustainable peace in the war-torn country.
"We are closer to a peace deal now than we have ever been before in Afghanistan. And all NATO Allies strongly support the peace efforts," he said, according to an official statement from his office, referring an Afghan peace negotiation between the U.S. and Taliban.
Both sides are set to hold the seventh round of talks later this month in Doha, Qatar.
He called the recent settlement efforts "a real peace process," and reiterated his support to the political solution to the Afghan crisis.
"These talks are the only way to peace," he added.
"For NATO the best way to support those peace efforts is to provide train, advise and assist support to the Afghan army and security forces because the Taliban has to understand that they will never win on the battlefield."
Stoltenberg added the best way to support the peace efforts is to provide political support as well as to help the Afghan army with trainers and fundings. , advise and assist the Afghan army and security forces because the Taliban has to understand that they will never win on the battlefield.
NATO chief expressed his condolences "to all those who have lost loved ones and family members" from the member states of the military alliance in Afghanistan.
Two American soldiers got killed in a Taliban-claimed attack in the central Afghan province of Maidan Wardak, the U.S. Forces - Afghanistan (USFOR-A) confirmed on Wednesday.
A day earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo briefly visited the Afghan capital Kabul on an unannounced trip to the insurgency-riddled country.
“While we have made it clear to the Taliban we are prepared to remove our forces, I want to be clear, we have not yet agreed on a timeline to do so,” the local Tolo News quoted him as saying after the meeting on Tuesday.
''Simultaneously, the United States is laying the ground force for intra-Afghan negotiations to begin as soon as possible. Objective of those negotiations is for Afghans to agree on a timeline and a political roadmap for reaching a comprehensive peace agreement,” he added.
U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, who leads the U.S. delegation in Doha talks, stressed last week that the aim behind the ongoing peace talks with the Taliban is a comprehensive peace deal, not a withdrawal agreement.
In a series of tweets ahead of the seventh round of talks with the Taliban, Khalilzad said a comprehensive peace agreement is made up of four interconnected parts: counter-terrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, intra-Afghan negotiations that lead to a political settlement; and a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire.
According to the NATO Secretary General, the U.S. Envoy has been consulting closely with all Allies.
'“Of course, one of the important aspects of any potential peace deal will be how can we have a mechanism in place to make sure that it is respected, implemented, verifiable. Therefore, it is no easy way to peace but we need a political solution. We need a negotiated solution”, he said.