Wednesday November 18, 2020
Trump’s announcement that US troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan has caused great misunderstanding. For the Bundeswehr, a continuation of the mission is difficult or impossible. The Federal Foreign Office is in talks with the USA. Meanwhile, different reactions are coming from Afghanistan.
The German government is concerned that the announced faster withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan could endanger the stability of the country. It is important not to jeopardize what has been created in the country by taking hasty steps, said Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Berlin. “Unless there is a need, we shouldn’t create additional hurdles that a hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan would certainly result in.”
The German government is particularly concerned about the consequences of the US announcement for the peace talks that have been initiated between the Afghan government and the radical Islamic Taliban. The talks are difficult enough and should not be hindered with further hurdles.
A spokesman for the Federal Foreign Office said the federal government was in talks with the United States. A spokesman for the Department of Defense added that it would have to be seen whether and to what extent US soldiers would actually be withdrawn. But if the US were to leave only 2,500 medical soldiers in Afghanistan, the Bundeswehr’s mission could no longer be fulfilled.
Germans in Afghanistan for 19 years
The US government has announced that troops in Afghanistan will drop from 4,500 to 2,500 by January 15. The US provides by far the largest part of the NATO force in Afghanistan, which primarily trains the Afghan armed forces. The Bundeswehr is involved with a good 1200 soldiers and has the leading role in the north of the country.
Without the Americans, a continuation of the mission is difficult or impossible. The Bundeswehr mission in Afghanistan has lasted 19 years and is the most loss-making in the troop’s history. 59 German soldiers were killed in Afghanistan, the majority of whom were killed in attacks or in combat.
What consequences the election victory of Trump’s challenger Joe Biden will have for the withdrawal of US troops from Germany, which Trump has also announced, cannot yet be foreseen, Maas said. “We will certainly discuss this very, very quickly with the new administration.” In any case, the previous withdrawal plans “cannot be implemented so quickly”.
The residents of the Afghan capital Kabul were also concerned. “The withdrawal of foreign soldiers will mean that the Taliban will escalate the violence,” said Fatima Safari. A spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani initially only stated that the head of state had spoken to Pentagon chief Miller about “continued meaningful US military support” for the Afghan security forces.
The Taliban, on the other hand, were pleased. A Taliban spokesman described the US announcement as a “good move and in the interests of the people in both countries”: “The sooner the foreign forces withdraw, the more the war will be prevented.”
NATO: preserve achievements
According to NATO, the withdrawal of troops does not mean the end of the alliance’s deployment in the country. “Even with the announced further US reductions, NATO will continue its work to train, advise and support the Afghan security forces,” affirmed alliance spokeswoman Oana Lungescu in Brussels. It is important to preserve the achievements that have been made in the fight against international terrorism. NATO should only leave Afghanistan when the time is right.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had already warned on Tuesday of the possible consequences of a hasty withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. The price for leaving the country too quickly or in an uncoordinated manner can be very high, said the Norwegian. Afghanistan threatens to become a retreat again for international terrorists who are planning attacks on NATO countries.
Trump was however unimpressed by this warning. As early as October, he spoke out on Twitter for a complete withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan by Christmas. Last week he fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper and appointed Christopher Miller in his place. He wrote to the US soldiers at the weekend that it was “time to come home”.
The announcements met with mixed feedback in the USA. Democratic Senator Jack Reed accused Trump of adopting a “cynical, chaotic approach” that could lead to “more chaos and violence in Afghanistan”. The Democratic MP Adam Smith, however, spoke of a “right decision”. Ultimately, the Afghans themselves have to find a way to peace.