Berlin / Washington (dpa) – Following NATO’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, the 1,100 Bundeswehr soldiers stationed there should leave the country in mid-August if possible.
Minister of Defense Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU) mentioned this goal in a telephone exchange with the foreign and defense politicians of the parliamentary groups, the German news agency heard from participants.
The Federal Armed Forces Association demanded that the operation be secured with additional special forces. In total, 800 container loads of material still have to be brought to Germany.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas assured Afghanistan that support in the civilian sector would continue after the withdrawal. “We spend nearly half a billion euros every year on reconstruction in Afghanistan, and that will continue,” he said in the ARD “Tagesthemen”. He also insists that the Afghan government’s peace negotiations with the rebel Taliban will produce lasting results so that chaos does not re-emerge in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of troops. “We must absolutely prevent that.”
On Wednesday, NATO decided to initiate the withdrawal from Afghanistan on May 1. Previously, the US, as the largest supplier of troops, had set the withdrawal date for September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks by the al-Qaeda network in the US. Germany is the second largest supplier of troops, after the US. There are a total of about 10,000 regular soldiers (excluding mercenaries) in Afghanistan, including 2,500 Americans.
Just hours after the official announcement of the withdrawal of US President Joe Biden, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken arrived in Kabul for a visit. Blinken had informed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that the US withdrawal would not weaken strategic relations between the two countries, the Afghan presidential palace said. The US continued to feel obligated to Afghanistan and its people. “I’m here to demonstrate our continued commitment,” Blinken said in the ToloNews video.
Biden and Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed in a telephone conversation that the withdrawal of troops would be closely coordinated. The decision to withdraw was divided in the Bundestag. CDU foreign politician Jürgen Hardt called them equal and courageous. The Greens and the FDP called on the federal government to submit a plan to protect the achievements of nearly 20 years of service. The FDP politician Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann cited the improvement of the situation of women as an example. “It would simply be fatal if Afghanistan returned in a post-war order to medieval conditions.”
Left-wing politician Alexander Neu said the decision to withdraw could have been taken 15 years ago. The AfD politician Rüdiger Lucassen also called the move “overdue”.
SPD politician Siemtje Möller called on Kramp-Karrenbauer to ensure a safe withdrawal. “Protecting our soldiers is our top priority.”
The Bundeswehr Association is also pushing for additional security measures. “The dangers of external attacks should not be neglected any more than the risk of possible internal perpetrators,” said head of the federal government André Wüstner. He also called for a fair reappraisal of the 20 years of service. “Even if a lot went well and the Bundeswehr fulfilled its mandate, there were undeniably many mistakes.” Wüstner called the chosen political course, the definition of various goals for the stakes and “feasibility illusions”.
The attacks of September 11, 2001, for which Al-Qaeda was blamed, prompted the invasion of US-led forces in Afghanistan in the short term. Within weeks, the military operation resulted in the overthrow of the Taliban regime, which had refused to extradite Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
Under Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, the US government had agreed with the militant Islamist Taliban that all international forces would withdraw by May 1. Biden is now breaking this promise. The Taliban called on troops from the US and other NATO countries on Thursday to leave the country “immediately”. They also accused the US of further violations of the agreement, including the late release of Taliban prisoners, the fact that Taliban members were still blacklisted by the UN, and an additional 1,200 unspecified violations. You would have fulfilled all obligations yourself.
The insurgents had recently threatened new violence against NATO forces if the May 1 deadline was not met. Both Biden and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned the Taliban to expect a strong response in the event of attacks on soldiers from the US or other NATO countries during the withdrawal phase.