AForeign Minister Heiko Maas pledged further support for Afghanistan during a visit to the capital Kabul for the time after the NATO troop withdrawal. “Germany remains a reliable partner at the side of the people in Afghanistan,” said the SPD politician on Thursday after his arrival. The military operation will end soon, but the engagement will continue at all other levels. “It is in our European interest to create good and secure prospects for Afghans. We absolutely want to prevent a relapse into old times. “
Maas visits Afghanistan just two days before the official start of the NATO troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. In Kabul he wanted to meet President Ashraf Ghani, among others, and then visit the army camp in Mazar-i-Sharif in the north of the country. The visit takes place under massive security precautions.
Two weeks ago, NATO decided to bring home the 10,000 or so soldiers who were still in Afghanistan after almost 20 years. Before that, the United States, the largest contributor to troops, had committed to leaving the country by September 11th – the 20th anniversary of the al Qaeda terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. In the meantime, a shortening of the withdrawal period until July 4th, the American national holiday, is under discussion.
“Peace process needs diplomatic push”
The talks in Kabul should focus on the time after the withdrawal. Maas promised that Germany would continue to support the Afghan government’s currently faltering peace negotiations with the militant Islamist Taliban. “The peace process needs a new diplomatic push,” he said. “There is no easy negotiated solution, but the negotiations remain the best chance for a sustainable, secure and stable future for the country.
The Foreign Minister also pledged further civil aid. For this purpose, Germany has made 430 million euros available for the current year. The same amount has been promised for the next few years until 2024. However, the federal government wants to make the payments dependent on the further development of the peace process and also on other factors such as the human rights situation in the country.
May 1st is the official start date for the withdrawal. The preparations at the individual bases are already in full swing – also with the Bundeswehr. After the Americans, Germany provides the second largest contingent of NATO troops. Of the 1,100 German soldiers, around 100 are stationed in Kabul and around 1,000 near the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif. Camp Marmal there is the largest Bundeswehr base outside of Germany.
From there, among other things, 123 vehicles and six helicopters as well as tons of other material – a total of 800 container loads – are to be transported back to Germany over the next few weeks. It is feared that the rebellious Taliban will torpedo the withdrawal with attacks. For this reason, additional security forces are currently being sent to Afghanistan.
The last German soldier is said to have left the camp by mid-August at the latest. After almost 20 years, this will end the most lossy and expensive foreign assignment in the history of the Bundeswehr. 59 German soldiers lost their lives in Afghanistan, 35 in attacks or in combat. The operation, which was originally intended to safeguard peace and then became a combat operation against the rebellious Taliban, cost more than 12 billion euros. Most recently, the core mission of the NATO troops was the training of Afghan armed forces.