NATO chief blames Afghan leadership for Kabul collapse

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on the Taliban on Tuesday to facilitate the departure of all those who want to leave Afghanistan, adding that the world will be watching and must continue to support a “stable and peaceful” Afghanistan.

In a press conference held two days after the Taliban took control of Kabul, the NATO chief blamed the Afghan leadership for the collapse of government forces and loss of the capital. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on Sunday as Taliban fighters closed in on Kabul.

“Ultimately, the Afghan political leadership failed to stand up to the Taliban and to achieve the peaceful solution that Afghans desperately wanted,” Stoltenberg said. “This failure of the Afghan leadership led to the tragedy we are witnessing today.”

He said NATO has suspended all support to the Afghan government.

Conflicts between Taliban fighters and Afghan government forces escalated after U.S.-led foreign forces began the final stage of their withdrawal from the country in May. As the Taliban took control of Kabul on Sunday, the United States and some other countries intensified efforts to evacuate their diplomats and other nationals.

“NATO has been working around the clock to maintain operations at the Kabul International Airport,” Stoltenberg said, after a meeting of senior NATO diplomats from alliance members.

“Around 800 NATO civilian personnel have remained to provide key functions under very challenging circumstances, including air traffic control, fuel and communications,” he added.

The Taliban have ordered their fighters to maintain discipline and not enter any diplomatic buildings or interfere with embassy vehicles, a senior official of the group said on Tuesday.

“Taliban members have been ordered at all levels to ensure that we don’t disrespect any country’s presence in Afghanistan,” said the senior official, who declined to be identified.

Stoltenberg also urged the Taliban to prevent Afghanistan from lapsing back into being a breeding ground for terrorism.

“Those now taking power have the responsibility to ensure that international terrorists do not regain a foothold,” he told reporters in Brussels.

(With input from Reuters, AFP)