German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas commits to mission in Afghanistan | News | DW | 11.03.2019
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German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas commits to mission in Afghanistan

Maas described his visit to Afghanistan as a clear signal Germany was committed to playing its part in a peaceful resolution of the conflict. There are concerns about the effects of a reduction in the US mission.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas arrived in Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan on Sunday to send a message confirming Germany's commitment to conflict resolution and economic development.

Germany is part of the NATO Resolute Support mission to train Afghan security forces and has a force of about 1,200 soldiers stationed there.

The government decided last month to extend the military mission,and Germany has offered to host a peace conference that is to include the Taliban.

"With the trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan, we want to send a clear message: Germany is committed to the responsibility we have assumed as the second-largest donor and contributor of troops in Afghanistan," Maas said.

The German government was pursuing the goal of reassuring Afghans "that we will continue to work for a peaceful resolution to conflict and the economic development of the region," he said in a prepared statement.

Improved rights situation

He said that negotiations with the Taliban should not mean "a return to a painful past." 

He hailed advances made by Afghanistan in the field of human rights and establishing the rule of law, giving special mention to the improvement made in the lives of young women, above all.

This progress was to be retained, he said, calling it a "prerequisite for our future cooperation."

Heiko Maas, Ashraf Ghani (picture alliance/dpa/Thomas Imo/Photothek.Net/Auswärtiges Amt)

Maas assured Ghani that Germany was still committed to Afghanistan

Read more: Taliban founder lived near US military base in Afghanistan: report

Germany's mission

There are discussions in Berlin on the future of the German mission, and the Bundestag is debating whether to extend the mandate for Afghanistan. The minister has argued for Germany's engagement in Afghanistan to continue, while there are other voices calling for an exit strategy.

The German mission is largely dependent on US infrastructure in Afghanistan. Washington has announced plans to withdraw half of the US military's 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, and this would have an effect on the German mission. Retired General Harald Kujat told the media at the time that a US withdrawal would render Germany's continued presence futile.

However, Maas warned that everything that the German military had achieved in the country "would very quickly collapse" if Berlin were to withdraw its troops now.

Read more: Afghanistan: Can peace prevail?

Peace is possible

However, Maas has said he sees this as the "start of a new phase," saying, "Peace is possible in Afghanistan."

He refers to elections as a sign of progress: "The landmark presidential elections in Afghanistan are scheduled for July, and there has been movement in the quest for a peace process with the Taliban, also thanks to the US initiative."

Maas considered his journey "right now as an important and necessary sign."

After Afghanistan, Maas will visit Pakistan this week.

Watch video 03:20

Foreign Minister Maas discusses Germany's role in UN

tj, jm/ng (dpa, AFP)

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