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Afghanistan: NATO puts plans for troop reduction on hold

2019-09-25T06:17:38.198Z

TIME ONLINE | News, backgrounds and debates



Brussels (AP) - For the German soldiers in Afghanistan, the temporary end of the US talks with the Taliban has greater impact than previously known.

According to information from the German Press Agency, it was envisaged that not only the United States, but also all other NATO partners would significantly reduce their troop presence in Afghanistan as part of an agreement with the radical Islamic insurgents. If, for example, the US had withdrawn 30 percent of its soldiers from the NATO mission Resolute Support, Germany and other Allies would have relocated up to 30 percent of their soldiers.

The Bundeswehr is currently involved in training for the security forces of the Afghan government with up to 1,300 soldiers. In the future, this number could have fallen below 1000 again.

Whether the plans for a troop reduction after the termination of talks by US President Donald Trump completely abandoned, was until recently unclear. Trump had said about two weeks ago that he considered the negotiations with the Taliban dead. Shortly before, another US soldier was killed in a car bomb attack in the Afghan capital Kabul.

So far, after months of negotiations, both the US and the Taliban were actually confident that they could reach an agreement to politically resolve the nearly 18-year conflict in Afghanistan.

Trump had already announced that the number of US troops in the country should be reduced in the case of a deal in a first step to 8600. According to US Special Envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, within 135 days US forces had withdrawn some 5,000 troops from five bases.

At present, it is estimated that between 13,000 and 14,000 US soldiers are stationed in Afghanistan. Up to 8,475 of these were last involved in the NATO training deployment. The remainder, among other things on the side of the Afghan armed forces, directly supports the anti-terrorist struggle in the country.

The reduction of NATO troops was intended above all as a constructive contribution to the peace process and as a sign of goodwill to the Taliban. These see the international soldiers in the country as occupation forces and refuse so far to take up direct peace talks with the Afghan government. The latter is considered by the insurgents as a puppet of the West.

The exact number of German soldiers who would have been deducted in the case of a deal, was not yet known. According to military sources, the de facto reduction rate could have ended up below 20 percent. This is because the mandate ceiling of 1300 soldiers is currently not exhausted. On the spot were last around 1180 German soldiers.

The current conflict in Afghanistan began in 2001 after the Al Qaeda attacks in New York and Washington. At that time, the United States, with international support, had launched a military intervention to expel the Taliban from power in the country because of hosting Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

In NATO, the demolition of US talks with the Taliban is not only negative. Among other things, it was feared that in the event of a swift withdrawal of troops, it could once again lead to a destabilization of the country and to a decline in democracy and human rights. As one of the main reasons for the strong US commitment to a deal was namely that US President Trump has promised his constituents, as quickly as possible to bring home many American soldiers.

At last, up to 17,150 soldiers were involved in the NATO mission to train the government-loyal armed forces in Afghanistan. In addition to the troops from Germany and the United States, for example, counted 1100 soldiers from Britain and just under 900 from Italy. At the beginning of 2015, the Resolute Support Mission (RSM) replaced its long-standing predecessor mission ISAF. Under the ISAF mandate, NATO soldiers had also fought in Afghanistan - under the RSM mandate they are only allowed to "train, assist and advise". When deployed in Afghanistan, 58 German soldiers have been killed so far, and the US armed forces already have about 2,400 victims.

Background paper of the Congressional Research Service on US deployment in Afghanistan and negotiations with the Taliban

Bundeswehr for Afghanistan mission

Bundeswehr on deaths abroad

NATO figures on troop numbers during the Afghanistan mission

Use figures of the Bundeswehr

Source: zeit

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