The countdown has begun. The withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan officially began on Saturday, May 1. The German military plans to bring back all of its 1,100 troops stationed in Germany by mid-August.
So are Afghanistan’s allies abandoning the country – leaving it to face both the current violence and the threat of more to come? German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was keen to counter this impression when he visited the country at the end of last week. Germany would continue to supply Afghanistan, he assured, and would remain a reliable partner for the Afghan people. Despite the fact that the military operation was drawing to a close, “we are continuing our engagement in all other areas,” Maas said.
Germany and other western countries can certainly support the development of Afghanistan in the future in many ways. The military engagement which ends after almost 20 years has lost its usefulness as a stabilizing element. But the NATO troop withdrawal is also having a positive effect in some ways, Jürgen Hardt, foreign policy spokesperson for the German CDU / CSU parliamentary group, told UKTN. “It puts pressure on the Taliban and the government to move forward in the upcoming negotiations,” he said. He added that there was also pressure from the country’s western partners: “They can exert their influence through their economic support to the country, for example.”
NATO troops, including Germany, to leave Afghanistan by September 11
Financial aid as a lever
Hardt referred to the current budget of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). About € 375 million of this amount goes to Afghanistan. “This money is extremely important to every Afghan government,” said Hardt. “It funds things like the incomes of public sector employees, schools and infrastructure projects. Afghanistan is counting on this aid.”
He added that Germany would make its support conditional on the extent to which the goals it has supported so far will continue to be implemented in the future. “For example, Germany attaches importance to good education in schools and respect for women’s rights. Future aid contributions will largely depend on the extent to which these concerns are implemented. “
‘The Taliban don’t want a civil war’
However, Afghanistan’s western partners can also support the country in other ways, says Ellinor Zeino, who heads the Kabul office of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Its staff, like those of other political foundations, were asked to leave the country on May 1 for one or two weeks as a preventive measure. But that doesn’t mean they’re ending their involvement, she told UKTN. Zeino says the Taliban really want a political solution because, in the long run, this is the only way to achieve their two most important goals: the complete withdrawal of troops and participation in government. “If they tried to achieve their goals by force, it could lead to a civil war,” she said. “The Taliban don’t want that either.”
Moreover, explains Zeino, the Taliban want international recognition. “They want to be seen as state power, not as a guerrilla group. So western states can also support the process by acting as moderators.” In any case, mediation or moderation can only be ensured by foreign actors, such as international partner states or the United Nations, because “ any Afghan group itself that would take the role of moderator would be biased in favor of in its own interests, would find it difficult to be accepted throughout Afghanistan or could fuel new intra-Afghan conflicts. “
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul in April
Opportunities for dialogue
In a way, the ground for a culture of discussion was prepared a long time ago, says Nadia Nashir, president of the Association of Afghan Women Volunteers in Germany. Germany’s goal, she said, has always been to establish some reliable state form in Afghanistan. “That’s why this must continue.”
“There is also a good basis for this in some respects, as a large number of Afghans are liberal and moderate.”
Nashir said that while working on the Women’s Association’s many projects, she knew that concrete cooperation among Afghans themselves was one of the most important ways to build trust. “Our principle is to work exclusively with local people, those who live specifically where the projects will be implemented. This creates trust and acceptance – also among men. They too support our work.”
To date, says Ellinor Zeino, the Adenauer Foundation has promoted this process of understanding, at the level of civil society. A non-partisan dialogue forum has been set up for this purpose. Representatives of conflicting parties are invited to the table; there have been discussions between groups of middle-class women and representatives of religious groups, for example. “The two sides have considerable reservations about each other at first, but then, during discussions, they often find common ground.” Each party realizes that the other has also experienced suffering. Zeino comments that both sides have often felt excluded from the political process as well. “It can serve as a basis for them to have a conversation, often for the very first time.”
Peace talks between representatives of the Taliban and Afghanistan took place in Doha
A thirst for education
Nadia Nashir sees the great thirst for education of many Afghans as a reason for hope. “We see this in our school projects. So many people want to enroll their children that we are struggling to provide enough places.” Women, in particular, she added, care deeply about the education of their children. “They are at considerable risk for this. They are walking on paths that have not yet been completely cleared. It shows how much education is worth to them.”
There are limits, however, said Ellinor Zeino. She explained that the women supported by the Adenauer Foundation learn to argue in religious terms because given the current constellation of power, no other basis for argument is possible. “People should have no illusions that there will only be progress on women’s rights and civil liberties in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future if these are debated on the basis of principle. religious rather than ceding religious discourse to the Taliban alone. We help to do this by providing appropriate discussion forums. “
Between optimism and fear
Overall, foreign policy spokesman Jürgen Hardt said he had high hopes for Afghanistan. “There is growing acceptance of women’s involvement in public life, for example. Likewise, many more people are now accepting the expansion of education and contact with representatives of the West – including the Taliban. . ” However, Hardt admits that a lot is still far from ideal.
They may be willing to change, but many Afghans are also extremely worried about the future, with all of its current uncertainties. “All of our staff are afraid that there will be a war if the upcoming negotiations fail,” said Nadia Nashir. She therefore asks for the support of the country’s allies: “Do not abandon Afghanistan!”