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NATO defence ministers discuss Afghanistan; Russian missile threat

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The NATO training mission in Afghanistan on Thursday took centre stage during a meeting of defence ministers, as majority indicated interest in ongoing peace talks between the U.S. and the Taliban.

Representatives from the radical Islamist Taliban group and the U.S., have been in talks since July 2018, for a solution to the conflict that has put Afghanistan under siege for 18 years.

The U.S. however, has said it would like to pull its troops out, but wanted an assurance of stability in that country before doing so.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is using the second and final day of the Brussels meeting to emphasise the importance of the alliance’s training activities towards peace in the region.

There are some 17,000 NATO-member or partner country personnel engaged in Afghanistan, training local troops and building up their capacities.

Another topic on the agenda is security measures the bloc needs to consider against Russia following the end of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty last year.

The agreement between the U.S. and Russia banned the use of a variety of nuclear weapons.

“The 29 allied ministers will discuss their response to the ongoing Russian missile build-up, both conventional and nuclear,’’ Stoltenberg said at the start of talks.

However, no concrete announcements are expected; as the U.S. and its allies had long accused Russia of cheating the INF deal, prompting America to ends its participation.

Report says fears are rife about the kind of weapons Russia is developing.

Moscow’s announcement that it had successfully tested hypersonic missiles has shaken NATO allies.

Hypersonic missiles cannot necessarily be tracked, or have their landing point predicted, due to their fast speed and high maneuverability.

According to a senior NATO official, it is also impossible to know whether they are loaded with conventional or nuclear warheads until detonation.

The U.S. and China are also developing hypersonic missiles.

“NATO allies face a strategic imbalance without defence systems against hypersonic missiles,’’ the official said.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Nyisom Fiyigon Dore

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