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German troops may stay longer in Afghanistan

February 13, 2021

The German military was set to withdraw in March. But the peace process in Afghanistan is not going as planned.

An Afghan boy with an UNICEF schoolbag rides his bicycle past German Soldiers in Kunduz
Germany's foreign minister called for German troops to stay in Afghanistan for longerImage: AFP/Getty Images/J. Eisele

Germany's military deployment in Afghanistan as part of NATO should be extended beyond its expiration date in March, according to Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

"The peace process will not be completed by the end of March," Maas told Germany's Funke Media Group newspapers in comments published Saturday.

Maas called for a new parliamentary mandate in order to be prepared for "different scenarios."

Under a deal between the United States and the Taliban signed in February 2020, all US troops were set to withdraw from Afghanistan, possibly with all international troops following by the end of April "if the security situation allows."

In exchange, the Taliban committed to US-brokered peace talks with Afghanistan's government and to significantly reducing violence.

Peace talks started in September, but violence continues between the Taliban and Afghan government forces.

Upcoming NATO ministerial meeting

NATO defense ministers are due to meet next week to discuss the future of the alliance's 10,000-strong mission in Afghanistan.

The Taliban on Saturday warned NATO against seeking a "continuation of war."

"Our message to the upcoming NATO ministerial meeting is that the continuation of occupation and war is neither in your interest nor in the interest of your and our people," the Taliban said in a statement.

"Anyone seeking extension of wars and occupation will be held liable for it just like the previous two decades."

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said earlier this month that the alliance members must decide "together" on the future of their Afghan mission and that he hopes US President Joe Biden will coordinate more closely with allies.

"If we decide to leave, we risk to jeopardize the peace process, we risk to lose the gains we have made in the fight against international terrorism over the last years," the NATO chief said.

"If we decide to stay, we risk continuing to be in a difficult military operation in Afghanistan and we risk increased violence also against NATO troops."

The Taliban on Saturday said it was "seriously committed" to the 2020 US deal, claiming it had "significantly decreased the level of operations."

Roadside bombings

Despite the Taliban's claims, there has been a spate of attacks in recent weeks, killing government officials, judges, journalists and activists. At least four Afghan security force members, including a commander, were killed and seven were critically injured in blasts in eastern and southern provinces on Saturday, officials said.

A further three civilians were injured in the east.

No militant group immediately claimed responsibility for the three attacks.

Life under Taliban rule in Afghanistan's Kunar province

A fresh start with Biden

With the new US administration under President Biden, Maas said a partnership-based approach was "possible again."

There is agreement "that we want to take this deployment to an end together as coalition partners in a responsible way that does not endanger the peace process," he added.

What are German troops doing in Afghanistan?

Around 1,100 German soldiers are currently deployed in Afghanistan as part of its role in the NATO Resolute Support training, advice and assistance mission.

Under the current mandate, Germany can provide up to 1,300 troops. As part of Resolute Support, they provide consultation, training and support for domestic security forces.

They also are mandated to provide tactical and injured airlift.

The one-year deployment was estimated by the government to cost €427.5 million ($518.2 million).

In total, Resolute Support Mission consists of around 16,000 troops from 38 NATO Allies and partners.

kmm,shs/rc (dpa, AFP, Reuters)