Germany is to maintain its military presence in northern Afghanistan in 2016 in cooperation with its NATO partners, German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday.
“We have agreed – and this is very good news – that we are going to go ahead with our contribution in the mission of strengthening the security architecture in Afghanistan. That is a very good result because there is still a lot to do. We want to go on with the mission “Resolute Support” in 2016. That means that we want to secure the progress that has already been made and also facilitate further steps forward,” von der Leyen told reporters in Berlin after a meeting with military experts from the 20 other countries with troops stationed in northern Afghanistan as part of NATO’s “Resolute Support” mission.
Although NATO has withdrawn almost all of its combat troops from Afghanistan, it still has soldiers stationed there to train local forces. Up to about 850 German troops are in Afghanistan on this mission.
The German government said last week it will send 130 more soldiers to support Afghan forces struggling to tackle insurgency.
Afghan Defence Minister Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai welcomed the decision to extend the mission.
“Fighting the terrorism is a task that one alone cannot do that. And I think recent incidents and events show that the new generation of terrorists will require a wider international cooperation,” he said, adding that stability in Afghanistan was important for the entire region.
United States General John F. Campbell, who commands both U.S and allied forces in Afghanistan, said continued support was crucial.
“I do see continued progress by the Afghan security forces. It has been a very, very tough fight this past summer. They have been very, very resilient, but they could not do that without the continued donor support and the support from Germany and the other countries in TAAC [Train, Advise, and Assist Command] North.”
“Think today’s meeting and the commitment I saw around the table, sends a very, very strong message to the national unity government of Afghanistan, to the people of Afghanistan, to the Afghan security forces, and also to the Taliban, that the region, the coalition will continue to support Afghanistan and that they really need to lay down their arms, they need to be part of the peace process and they need to help Afghanistan become a stable country in that region,” Campbell said.
Meanwhile, Afghan acting minister of defense Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai said: “Afghanistan, the Afghan national security forces, they are doing their job. They are taking over the responsibility and…But still, fighting the terrorism is a task that one alone cannot do that. And I think recent incidents and events show that the new generation of the terrorists will require a wider international cooperation. And I think Afghanistan is been suffering for quite a long time and for that reason I think that cooperation and stability in Afghanistan will contribute to the wider stability in the region and, at the same time, that will also prevent the brain drain of the Afghans and the migration as well. So for that reason I think this is a very much needed cooperation between the different countries.”
The Taliban’s surprise seizure of the northern city of Kunduz in September, the first time the militants had taken a provincial capital in 14 years, has prompted the U.S-led military coalition to revise its strategy in Afghanistan.
President Barack Obama announced last month that some 9,800 U.S. soldiers would remain in Afghanistan through most of 2016, reversing a decision to withdraw all but a small U.S-Embassy based force in Kabul before he leaves office in January 2017.
THE PASHTUN TIMES