Afghanistan troop withdrawal should be tied with peace talk progress, says German foreign minister

BERLIN — The withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan should be tied to progress in stuttering peace negotiations between the Kabul government and the Taliban, rather than “slavishly” bound to an end-of-April deadline, Germany’s foreign minister said Tuesday.

Germany is the second-biggest contributor to NATO’s Resolute Support training and assistance mission in Afghanistan, after the United States. President Joe Biden’s new administration has said it plans to review the peace agreement signed last February between the U.S. and the Taliban.

The Pentagon has said that the Taliban’s refusal to meet commitments to reduce violence in Afghanistan is raising questions about whether all U.S. troops will be able to leave by May as required under the peace deal.

Soldiers fire their mortar system in support of operations in Laghman Province, Afghanistan. Troops are still scheduled to come home completely in May, but that could change. (Sgt. Jordan Trent/Army)

At the same time, talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban are making little headway.

At the end of April, “these peace talks won’t be over,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said at an event organized by weekly Die Zeit and three other German newspapers. “Our fear is that the Taliban could use this as a reason to leave the peace talks and seek a military solution.”

Afghan National Army soldier stand on top of a hill during a visit by Afghan Deputy Defense Minister Dr. Yasin Zia and Resolute Support Commander Gen. Scott Miller in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 3, 2020. (Spc. Jeffery J. Harris/Army Reserve)

“So our approach is to say that we must couple both processes, the withdrawal of foreign forces with the peace negotiations,” Maas added. “We don’t have to hang on slavishly to the date of the end of April — these things must be linked and when the peace negotiations are concluded successfully, the time will have come to withdraw foreign troops.”

Maas said an agreement will have to be sought with the U.S., the Afghan government and the Taliban on the matter.

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