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German FM makes surprise Kabul visit

August 30, 2015

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan to urge the government to continue peace talks with the rebel Taliban. He also pledged further German aid to the country.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier dressed in protective gear in Kabul between two soldiers Photo: Rainer Jensen/dpa
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/R. Jensen

Speaking after his arrival on Sunday in the Afghan capital, Kabul, Steinmeier said his trip came during a "difficult transitional phase" in the country, with the security situation remaining tense, amid a number of attacks since April.

But he called on Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to push on with faltering peace talks with radical Islamist Taliban rebels, describing the launch of the negotiations as "courageous."

A first round of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban took place in July in the Pakistani city of Murree, but a second round planned for July was canceled owing to a power struggle within the rebel group after the death of its former leader of many years, Mullah Omar.

Steinmeier said that the peace process in Afghanistan and better ties with neighboring Pakistan were necessary "so that the people in Afghanistan are given hope for a better life after many years of suffering."

'Continued German solidarity'

The foreign minister also promised Afghanistan Germany's continued support, even after the withdrawal of German combat troops nine months ago. Some 800 German Bundeswehr soldiers still form part of a follow-up mission that has remained in the country to help advise and train the local security forces.

Germany is the third-largest donor to Afghanistan, sending more than four million euros ($4.5 billion) in aid to the country since the Taliban were ousted from government in a US-led invasion in 2001.

During his one-day visit, Steinmeier has also talked with the second-highest ranking figure in Afghanistan's "government of national unity," Abdullah Abdullah, who lost presidential elections against Ghani last year. In addition, he met with German soldiers.

The minister was scheduled to travel on to Pakistan on Sunday, avoiding an overnight stay in Kabul for security reasons. He warned both countries to improve their bilateral ties as a "key for stability and development in the region."

Kabul has long accused Islamabad of backing the Taliban in Afghanistan and blames it for playing a role in recent attacks by the rebel group.

Steinmeier's trip, which remained unannounced for security reasons, comes as Germany and Afghanistan celebrate 100 years of diplomatic contact.

tj/bk (dpa, AFP)