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Thursday, October 28, 2021

NATO seeks Qatar base to train Afghan special forces: reports


The Qatar base would create a training ground for Afghan special forces as the US troop withdrawal continues.

Security officials under NATO have approached Qatar to secure a base to train Afghan special forces after the foreign troop withdrawal from Afghanistan concludes, Reuters reported.

“We are holding talks to earmark a base in Qatar to create an exclusive training ground for senior members of the Afghan forces,” said a senior Western security official in Kabul.

The base would be utilised to train and equip Afghan security forces fighting the Taliban, which has waged an insurgency against the Afghan government since 2001.

“We have made an offer but it is for authorities in Qatar to decide if they are comfortable with NATO using their territory as a training ground,” said a second security source based in Washington.

A third source based in Kabul revealed that bringing “Afghan special force members to Qatar for about four to six weeks of rigorous training” was currently under discussion.

Two sources said the United States, Britain and Turkey were among the NATO countries ready to send a force to train Afghan forces in Qatar.

The US and the Taliban signed a “historic” agreement in February last year during meetings in Qatar. Washington agreed to pull out its remaining troops from Kabul as long as the militant group stops its violence and cooperation with Al-Qaeda.

The Joe Biden administration later decided to push the deadline to September 11th given ongoing deadly attacks by the Taliban.

The Taliban did not welcome the delayed announcement, accusing the US of not abiding by its obligations in an accord signed by the insurgent group and Washington in February, which stipulated that all American troops would be pulled out of Kabul by May.

According to the US Central Command, the troop withdrawal is now 30-to-44% complete.

Read also: Afghan-Taliban talks pick up in Qatar following weeks of stalemate

Earlier in June, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was “looking into how we can provide out-of-country training for the Afghan Security Forces, especially the Special Operations Forces”.

Qatar has been the only known venue where authorised representatives of the Taliban have held talks with US officials, NATO, international rights groups and Afghan government officials.

The Gulf state has been facilitating the ongoing Afghan Peace Process since September last year with hopes to establish peace and stability in Kabul after decades of conflict.

A spokesperson for the insurgency group said the Taliban was not aware about NATO’s plan to train Afghan forces in Qatar.

“In the case of Afghan soldiers who receive military training abroad… If peace is established then maybe the well-trained should be hired to serve Afghanistan but if they come and fight against us and their nation, then of course they will not be trusted by us,” said Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid.

Around 7,000 non-US forces, mainly from NATO countries, Australia, New Zealand and Georgia, are still in Afghanistan, with 2,500 U.S. troops left to be withdrawn as well. The withdrawal of US troops would mark the end of the nation’s longest fought war.

The withdrawal comes amid a surge in fighting between Taliban fighters and Afghan forces.

HALO Trust attack

On June 8, masked gunmen attacked the compound of mine-clearing organisation, HALO Trust charity, in northern Afghanistan, killing at least 10 workers and wounding 16 others.

Reports state that up to 110 workers were present at the compound during the time of the attack. The Afghan government initially blamed the Taliban, an accusation that was later confirmed to be false.

“The local Taliban actually came to our assistance, and the Taliban itself has denied responsibility – so my suspicion is that it’s a different organisation,” James Cowan, chief executive of the UK-based organisation, told Al Jazeera.

The SITE intelligence monitoring group later confirmed that the Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the ambush.

Qatar strongly condemned the attack on the de-mining experts, reiterating its rejection of “violence and terrorism, regardless of motives and reasons,” while condoling the families of the victims.

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