Soldiers of the Bundeswehr — Germany’s armed forces — were initially convinced that their presence in Afghanistan was not of a combat mission but rather a short-term intervention seeking stabilization for a war-torn country. However, the intervention has turned into a 20-year-long military presence mostly in Northern and Northeastern Afghan provinces.
With nearly 1,100 troops on NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, Germany remains one of the biggest forces present in the country. In fact, it is the second largest NATO force in the country after the United States. In 2020, there was promise that military presence would reduce in the country. Germany had scaled back its military troops in select regions of Afghanistan, namely the northern Afghan province of Kunduz, a stronghold of the Taliban.
Nonetheless, it appears that Germany’s entanglement with Afghanistan will not loosen. Recently, German policymakers have agreed in allowing up to 1,300 stationed troops to remain in Afghanistan until January 31st, 2022. This decision was granted despite calls in withdrawing the Bundeswehr. Notably, German Foreign Minister Haiku Moss and Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer advised that any withdrawal of the Bundeswehr should not damage the ongoing progress of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Persistent involvement in Afghanistan have not went without cost for Germany. Some 19 years on, the continuing involvement in Afghanistan raises concerns as to why Germany spends €45 billion ($53.4 billion) per year to maintain its fighting forces, which include combat troops, special forces, and costly weapons systems. Simply from participating in the NATO mission by the end of 2018 has yielded an economic cost of €16.4 billion for Germany, and the cost of extending the mission from April 2021 to January 2022 is estimated at €382 million euros. Utilizing the Bundeswehr by itself accounts for €12 billion.
Chances are that the provinces will not become problem free in the foreseeable future. They have become seemingly undesirable destinations for residents and non-residents given it can be characterized as hotbeds of violence for the migrants and refugees that become trapped between the German and Afghan lines.
Since March 2020, health workers and facilities have been intended targets of violence in attacks blamed on Taliban militias and Afghan security forces. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, additional concerns emerged for asylum seekers in which Germany delayed forced returns to Afghanistan last March considering Afghan health authorities struggled to contain the virus outbreak. In any case, these issues are contingent on whether the peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government prosper.
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