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Taliban Warns NATO to Push Ahead With Troop Withdrawal in Afghanistan

FILE - NATO troops in Afghanistan.
FILE - NATO troops in Afghanistan.

The Taliban on Saturday warned NATO against seeking a "continuation of war", as the alliance weighs a planned withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Defense ministers from the Washington-backed allies are to meet next week to discuss whether NATO's 10,000-strong mission -- mostly carrying out support roles -- should stay or go, as Taliban violence rages.

"Our message to the upcoming NATO ministerial meeting is that the continuation of occupation and war is neither in your interest nor in the interest of your and our people," the Taliban said in a statement.

"Anyone seeking extension of wars and occupation will be held liable for it just like the previous two decades."

Former US president Donald Trump struck a deal with the Taliban last year under which the United States agreed foreign troops would leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in return for conditions including cutting ties with Al-Qaeda and opening peace talks with the Kabul government.

Joe Biden's administration has said it would review the deal, with the Pentagon accusing the Afghan insurgent group of not meeting their commitment to reduce violence.

The Taliban in turn has accused the US of breaching the agreement and insisted it will continue its "fight and jihad" if foreign troops do not leave by May.

In his final days in office Trump unilaterally reduced US forces in Afghanistan to just 2,500 -- the lowest since the start of the war in 2001.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has repeatedly insisted that NATO members must decide "together" on the future of their mission and he hopes Biden will coordinate more closely with allies.

"If we decide to leave we risk to jeopardize the peace process, we risk to lose the gains we have made in the fight against international terrorism over the last years," the NATO chief said earlier this month.

"If we decide to stay we risk to continue to be in a difficult military operation in Afghanistan and we risk increased violence also against NATO troops."

The Taliban on Saturday said it was "seriously committed" to the US deal, claiming it had "significantly decreased the level of operations".

Insurgents have launched a string of offensives threatening at least two strategic provincial capitals in southern Afghanistan in recent months.

They have also been blamed by the US and the Afghan government for a wave of assassinations on journalists, politicians, judges and activists.

The warring sides launched peace talks in September year, but progress has been slow and overshadowed by the violence.