Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer made the statement during a surprise visit to troops in Afghanistan's Mazar-i-Sharif. The trip followed a 10-month extension to Germany's military presence in the country.
Germany is committed to the peace process in Afghanistan, Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said Friday during a surprise visit to troops in Mazar-i-Sharif, where the majority of German troops are deployed.
Kramp-Karrenbauer arrived at the Bundeswehr camp in the north of the country in the early hours of the morning in order to "get an overview of the current situation of the Bundeswehr contingent and the situation in Afghanistan in a direct exchange with the men and women of the Bundeswehr."
"We are ready to continue supporting the peace process," the defense minister said.
On Wednesday, the Cabinet in Berlin approved a 10-month extension until next January of Germany's military mission there, a move that still has to be approved by parliament.
During her visit, Kramp-Karrenbauer said the country "urgently needs a settlement between the opposing groups of its society."
Soldiers cannot replace these reconciliation processes, but they were "making an important contribution together with allies, especially in the north of the country," she said.
The minister added that Berlin's goal remained an orderly withdrawal of troops.
"In view of the security situation, the protection of our servicemen and women is a very high priority in this regard, and all necessary measures will be taken together with our partners to this end," she said. "The goal remains an orderly withdrawal."
The current parliamentary mandate for the German operation with up to 1,300 troops expires at the end of March. Meanwhile, the new US government is reviewing a 2020 pact with the Taliban, which called for foreign troops to withdraw by May 1.
It is currently unclear how the NATO mission will continue. Former US president Donald Trump had promised that all troops would be withdrawn by the end of April this year, but President Joe Biden's administration has not yet defined a position on this.
Kramp-Karrenbauer has warned that a premature withdrawal of NATO troops could jeopardize peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and said that NATO troops should be prepared for Taliban violence if they stay beyond the May 1 deadline.
She is set to contribute findings from her unannounced Afghanistan visit to the parliamentary debate and ongoing talks within NATO.
lc/nm (AFP, Reuters)