NATO Weighing Suspending Missions Outside Europe, North America After Leaving Afghanistan

The world's biggest security organization wonders whether they should resign operation endeavors outside of NATO territory considering the social impacts of the U.S.' departure in Afghanistan.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said ahead of the meeting in Brussels, "the way the organization's biggest-ever operation ended shows that the challenges of such endeavors should not be underestimated."

In 2003, NATO spearheaded international security efforts in Afghanistan, but in 2014, NATO ended combat action to train local forces to help build the Afghan army. However, those forces unraveled just after a couple days against Taliban forces.

Part of the problem for NATO Stoltenberg put forward was its role became more demanding as the effort to rebuild Afghanistan developed, shifting the organization away from its original task to destroy the al-Qaida network.

At the same time, Stoltenberg said, "the lesson cannot be that we will never engage."

"We should not draw the wrong conclusion on Afghanistan and think that NATO allies and NATO should never again engage in military operations to fight extremism, or terrorism," he said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

NATO Austin Stoltenberg
United States Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III makes a statement during a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. NATO defense ministers gathered for their fall meeting to assess the fallout of Moscow's closure of its mission to the alliance and an overall worsening of relations with Moscow. AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, Pool

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said it was important to learn "that purely military aims alone are not sufficient" when the ultimate goal is to foster democracy and stabilize a country wracked by decades of conflict.

"If you are pursuing longer-term political aims with this, possibly you need even more patience than 20 years, and above all … you have to describe the aims in very concrete and realistic terms, because otherwise you get what we saw in Afghanistan -- that we achieved our military aims over 20 years but nation-building ultimately failed in the long term," she told reporters.

The actual job of identifying lessons is being handled by NATO's 30 deputy national envoys, under the lead of Assistant Secretary General for Operations John Manza. Manza was to submit his initial findings in a report to the ministers. A final report is due to be debated by NATO foreign ministers in early December.