NATO secretary-general has claimed that the Afghan political leadership failed to stand up to the Taliban and to achieve the peaceful solution that Afghans desperately wanted.

Iran PressEurope: Talking to reporters during a Tuesday virtual press conference, Jens Stoltenberg said the failure of Afghan leadership led to the tragedy we are witnessing today, stressing the need for an honest, clear-eyed assessment of NATO’s own engagement in Afghanistan.

“Despite our considerable investment and sacrifice over two decades, the collapse was swift and sudden. There are many lessons to be learned.”

He said due to their military presence and the support of the international community, a new generation of men and women had grown up in a new to get education, take part in the political process, run their own businesses, and enjoy a vibrant media scene.

“Today’s Afghanistan is very different from the Afghanistan of 2001. So those gains cannot be easily reversed.”

Stoltenberg said the world will be watching and must continue to support a stable and peaceful Afghanistan.

Elsewhere in the press conference, he stated: “Kabul has fallen, and the Taliban have taken control of most of the country. I am deeply saddened by what I see unfolding in Afghanistan”.

Stoltenberg said the United States agreed with the Taliban last year that US troops would withdraw by May and after many rounds of consultations, all allies agreed to follow the US decision. “Ending our military mission was not easy. We were faced with a serious dilemma. Either leave and risk seeing the Taliban regain control. Or stay, and risk renewed attacks, and an open-ended combat mission.”

“We never intended to stay in Afghanistan forever. Over the past few years, from over 100,000 troops we went down to less than 10,000 – and now to zero.” But, he said, what they saw in the last few weeks was a military and political collapse at a speed which had not been anticipated.