Last German soldiers officially leave Afghanistan after nearly 20 years

Soldiers of the German Armed Forces line up in front of the Airbus A400M transport aircraft of the German Air Force for the final roll call on the tarmac at the Wunstorf air base, Germany, 30 June 2021. [EPA-EFE/HAUKE-CHRISTIAN DITTRICH / POOL]

Germany’s last troops “left Afghanistan safely” on Tuesday after a nearly 20-year deployment in the country, Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer confirmed.

“A historic chapter comes to an end, an intensive deployment that challenged and shaped the Bundeswehr, in which the Bundeswehr proved itself in combat,” Kramp-Karrenbauer tweeted.

The German military said that the last of the 1,100 initially stationed troops were on their way home via Tbilisi, Georgia.

NATO agreed in April to withdraw its roughly 7,000 non-American forces from Afghanistan to match US President Joe Biden’s decision to pull all American troops from the country starting 1 May.

Germany’s contingent, which has been based in northern Afghanistan’s Mazar-e-Sharif and Kabul, was the second biggest of NATO’s 9,600-strong Resolute Support training and support mission after the United States.

Smaller contributing countries, such as Denmark, Estonia and Spain, have already pulled out their forces.

US officials have said the entire pullout of U.S. troops will most likely be completed by 4 July.

Germany, far from the most militaristic country, had continuously struggled with the mission and its impacts were felt in domestic politics frequently.

The German parliament first approved sending the military to Afghanistan in December 2001, when the then governing Greens had consented to the mission, fissuring the party and leaving them in the opposition ever since.

First German troops had arrived in Kabul in January 2002, with fifty-nine soldiers having died in Afghan missions over the years.

At the same time, the question remains whether Germany will grant asylum to the locals that had supported the army in its tasks, such as translators. It is unlikely those who had supported foreign militaries are going to be popular now that the Taliban is set to take over.

The security situation in Afghanistan has been deteriorating for several weeks, with fighting having surged since early May when the US military began its final withdrawal of troops, with the Taliban claiming to have recently captured more than 100 of the over 400 districts across Afghanistan.

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