German government agrees to extend by 10 months its military presence in Afghanistan

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The German government on Wednesday agreed to extend by 10 months its military presence in Afghanistan, where it has the second largest contingent after the United States.

The decision, which still requires the approval of the Bundestag lower house of parliament, will see the current mandate, due to run out at the end of March, prolonged until January 31, 2022.

Germany has about 1,100 soldiers stationed in northern Afghanistan as part of NATO’s 9,600-strong Resolute Support mission.

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The move comes one week after NATO said it had made “no final decision” on the future of the mission, with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg admitting the alliance was faced with “many dilemmas” over the engagement.

US President Joe Biden’s administration is reviewing whether to stick to a looming May 1 deadline to withdraw the remaining 2,500 US troops or risk a bloody backlash from insurgents by staying.

Stoltenberg insisted the Taliban must live up to commitments under the deal with the US, including making progress in peace talks with Kabul, reducing violence and cutting ties to “international terrorist groups.”

Donald Trump in his final days as US president unilaterally reduced US forces in Afghanistan to just 2,500 – the lowest since the start of the war in 2001.

Allies are waiting anxiously for Biden to make his decision on whether to end US involvement in Afghanistan – but say they are willing to remain if the US stays too.

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However several groups in Germany’s parliament, in particular the liberal FDP and far-left Die Linke, have called recently for a strategy of disengagement after 20 years of military presence in the country.

Given the lack of clarity about NATO’s presence, the new mandate will cover the months after the German general election in September necessary to form a new government, followed by a fresh decision to be taken by MPs.

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