German foreign minister assures Kabul of support after troops leave

By Michael Fischer and Veronika Eschbacher, dpa

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has assured Afghanistan during a visit to Kabul on Thursday of continued support after the withdrawal of NATO troops.

“Germany remains a reliable partner on the side of the people in Afghanistan,” Maas said after his arrival.

Maas’ visit comes only two days before the start date of the official withdrawal of NATO troops from the country.

He said the military operations would end soon, but on all other levels Germany’s involvement would continue.

“To guarantee a good and secure outlook for the Afghans is in our European interest. We want to avoid a relapse to old times at all costs,” he added.

Maas is scheduled to meet President Ashraf Ghani and visit the Mazar-i-Sharif Bundeswehr camp. The visit is taking place under massive security measures.

The meeting is to focus on discussing the time after the withdrawal. Maas has promised to continue to support the sluggish peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban militants.

“The peace process needs a new diplomatic push,” Maas said.

“There is no simple negotiated solution, but the negotiations remain the best chance for a sustainable, secure and stable future for the country,” Maas said.

The foreign minister also assured further financial aid for civil society. Germany has promised to provide 430 million euros (520 million dollars) this year, and the same sum each year until 2024.

But the government wants to make the funds conditional on the development of the peace process and other factors such as human rights.

About two weeks ago, NATO decided to withdraw around 10,000 soldiers still stationed in Afghanistan after almost 20 years of military engagement.

The United States as the largest troop provider had previously decided bring its soldiers home by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon building. There are however talks to hasten the departure and withdraw all forces by July 4.

Germany is the second-largest provider of troops on the ground in Afghanistan.

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