Last updated in March 2013
Germany and Afghanistan have a long history of relations. Since diplomatic relations were established in 1919, Germany and Afghanistan have cooperated closely in many areas. Germany has become a second home to nearly 90,000 people of Afghan origin – more than in any other European country.
After the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001, the German Embassy was reopened in December of that year, initially as a German liaison office. Soon after, in January 2002, the German Ambassador was the first head of mission to present his credentials to the Interim Administration.
The German Embassy maintains close contact with political representatives in Afghanistan and supervises German humanitarian aid and reconstruction projects. In addition, in 2013 Germany is opening a Consulate-General in Mazar-i-Sharif.
Afghanistan on the road to consolidation
Immediately after the fall of the Taliban regime, the UN Talks on Afghanistan were hosted by the German government at its Petersberg guest house near Bonn in late November and early December 2001. The talks led to agreement, on 5 December, on the formation of an interim government and a road map for Afghanistan’s future development. In December 2002, Afghan representatives met again on the Petersberg (Petersberg II) with a view to incorporating the ideas of Afghan civil society more strongly in the vision for Afghanistan’s political future.
At the Berlin Conference (31 March-1 April 2004), the international community reiterated its long-term commitment to Afghanistan. The final communiqué, the Berlin Declaration, sets out the vision for Afghanistan’s future. The international community made commitments totalling USD 8.2 billion for the period 2004-2006.
At the invitation of Qatar and under the co-chairmanship of Germany, Afghanistan and the United Nations, a conference on regional police cooperation was held in Doha on 18 and 19 May 2004 (Doha I), attended by Afghanistan’s neighbours and numerous donor countries. The purpose was to improve cross-border police cooperation.
At the London Conference on Afghanistan (31 January to 1 February 2006), initial funding commitments of USD 10.5 billion up to 2010 were made and the Afghanistan Compact was presented. This document serves as the basis for cooperation in both the political and development sectors in Afghanistan up to 2010.
On 12 June 2008, another international conference on Afghanistan was held, this time in Paris. At this conference, the Afghan National Development Strategy for the next five years was presented, complementing the Afghanistan Compact. To fund this, the international community pledged a total of some USD 20 billion. This means that the aggregate German contribution to civilian reconstruction for the period 2002 to December 2009 amounts to more than EUR 1.3 billion.
At the second London Conference, on 28 January 2010, the international community and the Afghan government agreed on binding targets for progress in the areas of development, good governance and security. The long-term goal is to continue gradually transferring responsibility for their country’s fate to the Afghans themselves.
On 20 July 2010, the Afghan government and the international community reaffirmed and concretized their commitments at a further international conference in Kabul – the first Afghanistan conference to be held in the country. Agreement was reached on a process for the gradual transfer of responsibility for security to the Afghan security forces. The conference also welcomed an Afghan government programme for reconciliation with opposition forces and reintegration of combatants into society. Beginning in 2010, the Federal Foreign Office is providing EUR 50 million in funding over a period of five years to support this reintegration process.
The conference on Security and Cooperation in the Heart of Asia, which was held on 2 November 2011 in Istanbul, kicked off a regional process involving all of Afghanistan’s neighbours. The term ‘Heart of Asia’ is taken from a poem by the Indian poet Iqbal Lahori and refers to Afghanistan’s location ‘in the heart of Asia’, a region between South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East.
The countries participating in the Istanbul Process are Afghanistan, its neighbours China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, as well as Azerbaijan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Also involved are regional and international organizations, including the EU, NATO and the United Nations, as well as the following countries with observer status: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The aim of the Istanbul Process is to promote constructive political and economic involvement of the countries of this region in future developments in Afghanistan. Regular consultations are agreed on under the joint leadership of Afghanistan and Turkey. In this connection, six concrete trust-building measures have been identified: disaster relief, efforts to combat terrorism and drug trafficking, the establishment of chambers of commerce and measures to improve trade and investment opportunities, infrastructure development and education. These form the basis for a regional mechanism to promote security, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan and South Asia.
On 5 December 2011, ten years after the first Petersberg Conference, Germany hosted an International Afghanistan Conference in Bonn at the request of Afghan President Karzai. Preparations for the conference were made by the International Contact Group on Afghanistan in close coordination with the Afghan government, with Germany taking the lead.
The key message of the International Afghanistan Conference in Bonn, whose final outcome document was adopted by 100 countries and international organizations, was that the international community will not abandon Afghanistan, even after the withdrawal of international combat troops at the end of 2014. This is to be ensured by firm mutual commitments between Afghanistan and the international community. For its part, the Afghan government will have to push ahead with major reforms to secure Afghanistan’s autonomy and help the Afghan people to attain sustainable prosperity in a stable democracy. The International Afghanistan Conference in Bonn has thus paved the way for international engagement in the Transformation Decade (2015-2024). After 2014, the Federal Government too will continue to help Afghanistan evolve into a functioning state that serves its citizens.
Afghanistan Conferences in 2012
The NATO Summit held in Chicago on 20 and 21 May 2012 secured long-term funding of the Afghan security forces after the handover of responsibility for security to the Afghan side is completed in 2014, i.e. after the end of transition in 2014. To underpin financially the international community’s long-term civilian engagement in Afghanistan, an international ministerial-level conference was held in Tokyo on 8 July 2012 to address Afghanistan’s strategy for sustainable development. At this conference, a road plan for the Transformation Decade (2015-2024) was adopted and underpinned with international financial commitments. The pledges of support from the international community are conditional on concrete progress in the implementation of reforms by the Afghan government. This means that the mutual commitments made in Bonn have been taken a step further, extending to mutual accountability.
It has since become apparent that the Afghan government views the Tokyo conference as a cue for a qualitative leap in relations between Afghanistan and the international community, both in terms of Afghanistan assuming responsibility for its own future and in its expectations with regard to building greater trust among donors. Two final documents emerged from the conference: the generally worded Tokyo Declaration and a framework agreement, the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework.
With the Tokyo Declaration, Afghanistan recognizes that the international community’s ability and willingness to continue its support for Afghanistan depends on the Afghan government’s fulfilling its own obligations. The Tokyo Framework lists five goals (elections, rule of law, public finance, government revenue, growth) and 16 indicators which the Afghan government commits itself to implementing.
In line with its new Afghanistan strategy, the Federal Government increased its civilian engagement funding for the period 2010-2013 to an annual EUR 430 million, making Germany the third largest bilateral donor. At the Tokyo conference, Germany reaffirmed its funding pledges up to 2016, subject to progress in reforms by the Afghan government. In all, donor commitments up to 2016 run to some USD 16 billion.
At the International Afghanistan Conference in Bonn on 5 December 2011, the international community agreed that a stable Afghanistan is only conceivable in a stable and prosperous region. The Istanbul Process was continued at the first follow-up conference at foreign minister level on 14 June 2012 in Kabul. The next Ministerial Meeting of the Istanbul Process is to be held in Almaty on 26 April 2013.
Bilateral Cooperation Agreement between Germany and Afghanistan
On 16 May2012, Federal Chancellor Merkel and President Karzai signed a bilateral agreement on cooperation between Germany and Afghanistan. The agreement regulates Germany’s long-term relations with Afghanistan, in particular during the Transformation Decade (2015-2024). Thematically, the intergovernmental agreement covers all major areas of Germany’s bilateral relations with Afghanistan. The agreement stipulates that undertaken commitments, in particular to implement the shared values of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law, to observe the principles of good governance, to reform public administration and fight corruption, are to be met by the Afghan side. The text of the agreement was jointly drawn up with the Afghan side under the auspices of the Federal Foreign Office, with the participation of all the relevant federal ministries and through the Permanent Treaty Commission of the Länder. Both countries have ratified the partnership agreement. Initial talks on its implementation were held in Kabul in February 2013.
Germany continues to play a coordinating role in international policy on Afghanistan.
From 1 January 2011 until 31 December 2012, Germany was the so-called ‘lead nation’ on Afghanistan in the United Nations Security Council with a coordinating role in all issues relating to this country. In this connection, Germany chaired both the Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committees. On 19 March 2013, the United Nations Security Council unanimously voted to extend the mandate for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). The new Resolution 2096 (2013) extends by another year the mandate of the mission set up eleven years ago under the terms of Security Council Resolution 1401 (2002).
The International Contact Group on Afghanistan now comprises 50 countries and organizations including Afghanistan’s neighbours Iran, Pakistan, Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, regional players such as Turkey, India, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as well as the United Nations, NATO, the EU and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (IOC). It is chaired by the Special Representative of the Federal Government for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ambassador Dr. Michael Koch.
German armed forces in Afghanistan
Since December 2001, the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) has been carrying out the United Nations mandate to support the Afghan authorities in maintaining security in Kabul and the surrounding area. On 22 December 2001, the German Bundestag agreed for the first time, by a large majority, to second German armed forces to Afghanistan in implementation of Resolution 1386 of the United Nations Security Council. In the light of the London Conference on Afghanistan, in February 2010 the German Bundestag decided to increase the number of German troops deployed in Afghanistan to a maximum of 5,000 to enable faster and more efficient training of Afghan security forces. This number was complemented by a 350-strong reserve force. On 31 January 2013, the German Bundestag extended the mandate for the deployment of German forces by another year. The upper limit of troops was downsized for the first time in 2012. The current mandate runs until 28 February 2014 and specifies an upper limit of 4,400 German troops. The Federal Government’s objective is to further reduce the number of German troops to as few as 3,300 by the time the mandate expires. There are currently some 4,300 German troops deployed in the north of Afghanistan, making Germany the third largest troop provider in Afghanistan. With the adoption of Resolution 2069 (2012) on 9 October 2012, the United Nations Security Council extended the ISAF mandate for another year, until 13 October 2013. For the period following the end of the combat mission in 2014, a follow-on mission called Resolute Support is planned.
Parallel to NATO’s assumption of responsibility for the ISAF mandate in August 2003, the process of setting up Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) began. There are currently still 20 PRTs deployed in Afghanistan: eight US PRTs, two Turkish PRTs and one PRT provided by each of the following countries: Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Australia and the Czech Republic.
Their main mission is to stabilize the region and help rebuild government, civil and social infrastructure. To accomplish this objective, troops and civilian staff seconded by four German federal ministries (the Federal Foreign Office, the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the Federal Ministry of Defence and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development) are cooperating across domains, taking into account the special characteristics of the region, the social and societal structures and the evolving security situation. The remit of the military component of the PRTs is to assist the Afghan authorities in creating and maintaining a secure environment in which the other PRT elements – as well as the Afghan government and civil society – can safely pursue their work.
The German-led PRT in Kunduz is a combined civilian and military institution. As early as December 2011, the former German German PRT in Faizabad was put solely under civilian command as part of the transition begun in July 2011, which shifted the responsibility for security from ISAF to the Afghan security forces. It was closed in October 2012 and is now used by the Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP). The same procedure was adopted with the PRT in Kunduz as part of the transition process: it has been under civilian leadership since November 2012. As in the case of Faizabad, in Kunduz the process is due to culminate in the Provincial Reconstruction Team’s dissolution before the end of this year. The PRTs’ transfer to civilian responsibility is a visible sign of progress in northern Afghanistan. In the wake of the transition process, Afghan security forces have already assumed 80 per cent of the responsibility for security in Afghanistan.
As the country leading the Regional Command North (RC North), Germany provides the military headquarters in Mazar-i-Sharif as well as the logistics base for all ISAF forces deployed in northern Afghanistan, including the three PRTs (one German, one Turkish and one Hungarian). Brigadier General Jörg Vollmer assumed command there in February 2013. Germany also supports ISAF across the country by providing air transport capacity.
For current information on the military engagement in Afghanistan, visit:
German engagement in civilian reconstruction and humanitarian aid
Civilian reconstruction is the focus of German engagement in Afghanistan. In pursuance of the “responsible transfer of power” strategy and given the commitments made by the Afghan government at the Afghanistan Conferences in London and Kabul to ensure good governance and fight corruption, the Federal Government has since 2010 increased its civilian aid commitments to an annual EUR 430 million up to 2013. At the 2012 Tokyo conference, Germany reaffirmed its funding commitments up to 2016 on the condition that the Afghan government makes progress in implementing reforms.
With the increase in funding, the Federal Foreign Office has markedly stepped up its political and civil engagement in Afghanistan since 2010. The projects launched by the Federal Foreign Office have their rationale in foreign and security policy and are designed to respond quickly, selectively and visibly to Afghanistan’s serious problems. Priorities are security sector reform (building an Afghan police force), stabilization projects in the north of the country, which is under German responsibility (including the building of hospitals, schools and airports), capacity building in the administrative and judicial sectors, promoting human rights, cooperation in higher education, the preservation of the country’s cultural heritage and support for the election process. Another focus is promoting regional cooperation between Afghanistan, Pakistan and other neighbouring countries as part of the Heart of Asia process, which is important in terms of foreign and security policy. In addition, the Federal Foreign Office has provided funding for the Afghan government’s programme for reconciliation and the reintegration of former anti-government forces.
Apart from the Federal Foreign Office, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development is engaged in programmes of a more long-term nature in selected priority areas of development cooperation.
The regional focus of German reconstruction work is the north of Afghanistan. In addition, national programmes of the Afghan government are being supported in key sectors across Afghanistan as well as projects in other parts of the country (including Herat and Ghazni) and especially in Kabul.
Rebuilding the Afghan police force
Afghanistan must be equipped with the means to take care of its own internal security. Creating a functioning Afghan police force is therefore one of the key priorities of the Federal Government, the EU and the international community. A functioning and reliable Afghan police force is essential to guarantee a secure environment for reconstruction. Consulting, training, infrastructure, maintenance and the provision of equipment are the cornerstones of German and international assistance. Substantial investments – and considerable achievements – have been made in all areas. Since June 2007, the European Union Police Mission in Afghanistan (EUPOL Afghanistan) has been supporting police reform there.
The main objective of Germany’s bilateral engagement as part of the German Police Project Team (GPPT) is to establish a functioning police training system in Afghanistan by the end of transition in 2014. One of the cornerstones of this endeavour is training Afghan police instructors. Police instructors trained by German police experts at the German Police Training Centre in Kabul are subsequently deployed across the country.
The Police Training Centres (PTC) built by Germany in Mazar-i-Sharif, Kunduz, Faizabad and Kabul have a total capacity of 2,100 trainees. In July 2012, Germany handed over the Police Training Centre in Faizabad to Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry, the first of the four bilaterally established centres to be transferred to Afghan responsibility. In September, the last German police advisers, who had been active in Faizabad since 2008, left the city. The transfer was preceded by the long-term training and mentoring of Afghan police instructors as well as leadership and administrative staff. Training was also given to support staff for the institution’s operation and maintenance. Along the same lines, the Police Training Centres in Kunduz, Mazar-i-Sharif and Kabul are currently being prepared for the gradual transfer to the Afghan side by the end of 2014. The handing over of the Police Training Centre in Kunduz is scheduled for summer 2013.
Since 2012, Germany has no longer been conducting basic and NCO training courses in northern Afghanistan itself but has completely shifted its activities to mentoring. This means that the training is now conducted exclusively by Afghan instructors. Similarly, in the course of 2013 German police experts will be transferring the training of police instructors at the PTC in Kabul to Afghan trainers.
In future, the German Police Training Centres in northern Afghanistan (in Mazar-i-Sharif, Kunduz and Faizabad) are to form a Regional Police Training Centre North, Mazar-i-Sharif serving as the headquarters. The PTCs are part of the Afghan Interior Ministry’s long-term training plan, under which regional police training is to be concentrated in five training centres. The National Police Academy in Kabul and the Senior Staff College for training senior leaders of the Afghan police, which is currently being built by EUPOL in Kabul, will also form part of this training network. The German PTC in Kabul is integrated into the Kabul Police Academy.
The work of the European Union Police Mission in Afghanistan (EUPOL Afghanistan) focuses on training, advising and mentoring the top ranks of the Afghan police and senior Interior Ministry officials as well as developing structures conducive to the rule of law. The current European Union Council mandate for the mission runs until May 2013. In November 2011, the Council of the European Union made the basic decision to extend the mandate until the end of 2014 after completion of the ongoing strategic review, which is expected in July 2012. In the last 18 months, the number of EUPOL staff has risen from 250 to around 350 international and approximately 200 Afghan workers (figures as of May 2012).
For more detailed information on European and German engagement in building the Afghan police force, visit:
Afghanistan’s education system came to a near standstill in the years of the civil war and under Taliban rule. Numerous schools were destroyed. Girls and women in particular were almost completely denied access to education, a situation that has since changed fundamentally. Yet even today, some 70 per cent of men and more than 90 per cent of women fail to complete school. The illiteracy rate is over 70 per cent. However, 7.2 million children now go to school again, including some 2.7 million girls. Teachers are in great demand. Since 2009 alone, Germany has supported the (further) training of more than 90,000 primary and secondary school teachers.
The resumption of cultural relations in 2002 was able to draw on a well-established network of dedicated Germans and Afghans and the traditional cooperation between universities and other cultural institutions has been revived. With donations of several million euros a year (EUR 18.9 million in 2010), Germany is making an important contribution to cultural renewal in Afghanistan. These funds are being used for projects such as the rebuilding and re-opening of schools – including the highly regarded Amani Secondary School for Boys, the Aysha-e-Durani Secondary School for Girls and the Lycée Jamhuriat (a secondary business school for girls) – and the academic rehabilitation of Afghanistan’s universities through German-Afghan university cooperation projects. There are now eight German-funded PASCH schools in Kabul and Herat at which German is taught as a foreign language.
Both the Goethe Institute and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) have offices in Kabul. The Goethe Institute’s activities include language work and further training for teachers as well as cultural cooperation, especially in the theatre and film sectors and photography. Thanks to substantial financial support from Germany, it was possible to launch Skateistan (a highly successful ongoing school project featuring skateboard instruction) in Kabul in 2009 and to open the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) in Kabul in 2010. In addition, the Federal Foreign Office sponsors the restoration of cultural-historical monuments in Kabul, Bamiyan and Herat and supports efforts to rebuild the Afghan sports sector, with the focus on promoting football. Measures being implemented to rebuild Afghanistan’s media landscape include strengthening the country’s independent media and supporting the state-run broadcaster Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA).
Via the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, the Federal Foreign Office provides technical assistance and offers training and further-education courses for RTA staff.
For further information, click here: