US: Taliban should lay down arms, join peace process

-‘They really need to lay down their arms, help Afghanistan become a stable country,’ says US commander

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US: Taliban should lay down arms, join peace process

-‘They really need to lay down their arms, help Afghanistan become a stable country,’ says US commander

BERLIN – U.S. commander of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission, General John F. Campbell, has called on the Taliban to lay down its arms and join peace process in Afghanistan.

Speaking after a meeting of senior officials from 21 nations that support training and advising of Afghan military forces in northern Afghanistan, General Campbell said the international community will continue supporting Afghanistan’s national unity government.

“I think today’s meeting and the commitment that I saw around the table sends a very strong message to the national unity government of Afghanistan, the people of Afghanistan, the Afghan security forces, and also to the Taliban that the region, the coalition will continue to support Afghanistan and that they really need to lay down their arms, they need to be part of the peace process, and they need to help Afghanistan become a stable country in that region,” Campbell said.

Germany’s Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who hosted the meeting in Berlin, stressed that partner countries were willing to continue Resolute Support’s northern operation ‘TAAC-North’ through 2016.

“We would like to send a strong message of trust to the Afghan people that we are standing by their side,” she said.

Around 780 German soldiers are deployed in northern Afghanistan under the TAAC-North mission, where a total of 1,500 soldiers from 21 countries are taking part, including Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland, Georgia, Macedonia and Norway.

Afghanistan’s Defense Minister Mohammed Masoom Stanekzai has underlined importance of national reconciliation process in the country, but as well as the continued support of the international community, achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan.

He also expressed determination in fight against terrorism and called on coalition countries to continue their support for the Afghan government.

“Afghan national security forces are doing their job, we are taking over the responsibility. But still, fighting terrorism, it is a task, that one alone cannot do that,” Stanekzai said.

“Terrorism is posing threat not only to Afghanistan but too many other countries…and I think that is a common cause that we all have to stay together and to fight,” he stressed.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force ended its 13-year combat mission in Afghanistan on Dec. 31, 2014.

After Jan. 1, 2015, the scaled-down Resolute Support mission was devoted solely to training and advising the nascent Afghan security forces.

The 13,000 foreign troops that currently comprise the Resolute Support Mission are drawn from 28 NATO members and 14 partner nations.

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