The political leadership of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA) discussed the recent events in Afghanistan and the rapidly evolving situation on the ground at a Bureau meeting, bringing together the President, Vice-Presidents and Treasurer as well as ex officio members.
“At this stage, the immediate humanitarian crisis remains our most urgent priority,” said President Gerald E. Connolly (United States).
Members noted that NATO and Allies are fully focused on the immediate safety of servicemembers and diplomatic personnel as well as that of Afghan partners who are now at great risk – including interpreters, women, children, journalists, and NGO workers.
The Bureau members outlined their individual parliamentary efforts to assist individuals at risk.
“Since the Taliban takeover of Kabul, I and my staff have been working around the clock to assist individuals at risk – whichever way we can. We have submitted some 4,000 names to the US State Department for urgent assistance,” President Connolly told his peers.
“I know that many of you are engaged in similar efforts. [...] We cannot let those Afghans down who have stood by us for many years.”
Members discussed the importance of remaining flexible on the end date of the formal withdrawal of Allied armed forces, in order to bring as many people at risk as possible to safety.
“It may not be possible to rescue every single person who asks for our help, but we should not let an arbitrary deadline stop us from trying our very best,” stressed President Connolly, who has written a letter to US President Joe Biden to that effect.
The meeting took place amid reports the Taliban will no longer allow Afghan nationals to go to the Kabul international airport to leave the country, which members condemned vigorously.
The Bureau members also underlined that Allied governments must continue to pressure the Taliban to end violence and abuses immediately and allow safe passage for all those at risk, as well as to hold them accountable for their actions.
They also welcomed Friday’s statement by NATO Foreign Ministers. In particular, members welcomed the clear statement that any Afghan government which attempts to undo the progress of the past two decades risks international isolation.
“We must condition our recognition of and assistance to any future Afghan government to a clear and demonstrable commitment to respect the rights, freedoms and dignity of Afghans, all Afghans,” stressed President Connolly.
Members also support the critical assessment of the decades NATO and its international partners spent in Afghanistan, which Ministers announced at their meeting.
“We will need to reflect critically upon how we ended up in this situation, our engagement over the last 20 years and the lessons it holds for NATO going forward,” stated President Connolly. “This must be an integral part of the process of revision of NATO’s Strategic Concept, and I intend for the Assembly to play its full part. Our upcoming annual session will provide a first opportunity to do so across the whole membership of the Assembly.”
Members also took the opportunity to discuss arrangements and outstanding issues for the Assembly’s 2021 annual session, which will be held in-person in Lisbon from 8 to 11 October.