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Germany ready for Afghanistan pullout, says lawmaker

Wesley Dockery
April 15, 2021

State secretary at the German Defense Ministry Thomas Silberhorn told DW that NATO has done a "brilliant job" in preparing Afghan forces to secure the country by themselves.

German Bundeswehr soldiers in Afghanistan
German soldiers take aim with their weapons during a patrol north of KabulImage: Reuters/F.Bensch

Thomas Silberhorn, a member of the Bundestag and Parliamentary State Secretary at Germany's Ministry of Defense, told DW Thursday that Germany is "well prepared" to withdraw from Afghanistan, after the US and other NATO allies announced their plans to leave the war-torn country earlier this week.

"We always said we went into Afghanistan together and we will go out together," he said about NATO's strategy towards the country. "We are well prepared for this withdrawal and for the redeployment of our troops."

About 10,000 NATO troops currently remain in Afghanistan, including nearly 1,100 Germans. German Defense Minister Annagret Kramp-Karrenbauer said Thursday all German soldiers stationed in Afghanistan would be withdrawn by mid-August, saying "the Bundeswehr is leaving Afghanistan with pride."

The United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which were carried out the Islamist militant group al-Qaida. The US said the militants had been given shelter at the time by the Afghan Taliban.  Other NATO countries soon joined US operations in the country.

NATO did 'brilliant job' preparing Afghan security forces

Silberhorn said NATO did a "brilliant job" on preparing Afghan forces to secure the country by themselves. He believes major parties in Afghan now need to find a political solution to the instability in the country.

However, violent attacks in Afghanistan have spiked since the signing of the US-Taliban agreement in Doha, Qatar, in February 2020 to end the protracted war. The Taliban deny involvement in these attacks, but their refusal to agree to a nationwide ceasefire has raised doubts about their intentions.

"Of course, threats remain in the civil society and this dualism between a legitimate government of Afghanistan and the Taliban who are still set on violence," Silberhorn added.

The Taliban are not the only threat to Afghan forces; other militant groups, such as "Islamic State" (IS), have also gained a foothold in the war-ravaged country.

"The Taliban are stronger than ever. IS and other terrorist groups have gained a foothold in Afghanistan. Therefore, the consequences of a hasty and irresponsible withdrawal from Afghanistan could be dangerous not only for Afghanistan but also for the region and the world," Raihana Azad, a member of the Afghan parliament, told DW.

Afghan forces 'stretched very thin,' expert says

Afghanistan expert Mariam Safi, founder of the Kabul-based Organization for Policy and Research Development Studies think tank, told DW Thursday that security forces are "stretched very thin."

She noted that new terrorist organizations have popped up across the country since the US-led invasion nearly two decades ago.

"Let us not forget that in 2001, when the international community entered Afghanistan, they were fighting one terrorist group," Safi said. "Now, there are reportedly over 22 terrorist organizations operating regionally and nationally in Afghanistan. And that's going to be quite a challenge."

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said that security forces are "fully capable" of defending the country after the withdrawal. Safi agreed that they are capable, but claimed security forces "continue to be limited due to lack of resources, due to lack of weaponry and support, particularly air support."

The Taliban's sanctuaries in neighboring Pakistan also create an additional challenge for Afghan forces, Safi noted.

She said US withdrawal without conditions could be "very dangerous" for human rights in Afghanistan. US President Joe Biden has said diplomatic and humanitarian efforts would continue in Afghanistan, but asserted that it is time to end "America's longest war."

With reporting by Shamil Shams and Masood Saifullah

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