NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg paid his respects to the victims of the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States, and said the alliance would keep countering the threat of global terrorism.
“The fight against terrorism will continue, and NATO will continue to play its part, as the only place where Europe and North America come together every day for our shared security,” Stoltenberg said at a ceremony at the alliance headquarters in Brussels.
On the 20th anniversary of the event, the 30 allies’ flags flew at half-mast on Saturday as a sign of respect for the 3,000 people who died in the al-Qaeda plane hijackings – the single worst attack on US soil in the country’s history.
The US backed by NATO allies invaded Afghanistan shortly after the attacks, ejecting the Taliban from power. The radical Islamist group, which harboured al-Qaeda before being ousted, recaptured power in Afghanistan at stunning pace last month in a major blow for NATO.
In an editorial published in Germany’s Die Welt newspaper among others outlets Stoltenberg said NATO had already “launched a thorough assessment” of the almost 20-year mission to see which lessons must be learnt.
Despite the bitter end, Stoltenberg defended the mission in the article, saying it had prevented attacks being organized from Afghan soil.
The use of military force was necessary as a last resort and was the “ultimate guarantor of our freedom,” the former Norwegian prime minister wrote.