Germany expresses ‘serious concern’ over US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan
The German government on Wednesday warned U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration that the planned partial withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan risks putting peace and progress in the country in danger.
“Our serious concern is that a premature withdrawal could jeopardize the negotiation process [between the Afghan government and the Taliban], create a security vacuum and jeopardize the progress achieved in Afghanistan,” German foreign ministry spokesperson Christofer Burger told reporters during a briefing in Berlin.
The reaction followed an announcement by Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, who told reporters late Tuesday that Washington will reduce its military presence in Afghanistan from around 4,500 troops to 2,500 by January 15. Miller also said U.S. troops in Iraq will be drawn down from around 3,000 to 2,500 by the same date.
The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001 as part of its war on terror. NATO allies including Germany have since assisted U.S. military efforts in the country, most recently within the NATO mission Resolute Support, which aims to train and assist Afghan security forces. The security situation in the country remains fragile as the Taliban continue to wage a guerilla war against the Afghan government and its allies.
Burger said that German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas “has repeatedly acknowledged that it was a great diplomatic achievement, including that of the Trump government, to create the conditions for peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government to take place.”
He added: “In our view, this peace process is the best way to ensure that a troop withdrawal can take place in such a way that everything that has been achieved in Afghanistan in recent years — in terms of human rights, education, economic development, development opportunities for girls and women as well — is not lost or put at risk. One of the key business principles of this peace process has always been that military withdrawal steps are subject to conditions.”
At the same briefing, German defense ministry spokesperson Arne Collatz-Johannsen acknowledged that the U.S. troop withdrawal also risks having consequences for the over 1,000 German troops that are currently in Afghanistan as part of the Resolute Support mission.
“We are of course trying to find out — also together with our partners and NATO as a whole — what this means in concrete terms for capabilities on the ground, because it is also very clear that the U.S., as the strongest contributor to the deployment on the ground, has a significant role to play in capabilities that are necessary to sustain the overall [troop presence],” Collatz-Johannsen said.
“Here we assume that the principle — together in, together out, and out at the right time — will be upheld,” he said. “We now have to adjust our planning … to what we are told by the American side.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned the Trump administration on Tuesday against a hasty pullout from Afghanistan, saying “the price for leaving too soon or in an uncoordinated way could be very high.”
An EU diplomat also expressed concern over the U.S. announcement: “The Taliban have already welcomed the partial withdrawal of American troops, and that is exactly what we fear — that a further withdrawal of forces, especially American forces, will give the Taliban another tactical advantage in their campaign.”