Last updated in September 2014
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 2001. A year later, Afghan representatives met again on the Petersberg (Petersberg II), one of the aims being to incorporate the ideas of Afghan civil society more strongly in the vision for Afghanistan’s political future.
At the 2004 Berlin Conference, 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 2006 London Conference on Afghanistan, initial funding commitments of USD 10.5 billion up to 2010 were made and the Afghanistan Compact was presented. This document served as the basis for cooperation in both the political and development sectors in Afghanistan up to 2010.
In 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 amounted to more than EUR 1.3 billion.
At the second London Conference, held in January 2010, the international community and the Afghan government agreed on binding targets for progress in the areas of development, good governance and security.
In July 2010, the Afghan government and the international community reaffirmed and concretised their commitments at the first Afghanistan conference to be held on Afghan soil. 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.
The conference on Security and Cooperation in the Heart of Asia, which was held in 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, which was named after the conference, are Afghanistan, its neighbours China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, as well as Azerbaijan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Also involved are regional and international organisations, including the EU, NATO and the United Nations, as well as the following countries with observer status: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The Istanbul or Heart of Asia Process is strengthening regional cooperation at the political (meetings of ministers) and the operational level (trust-building measures in the following areas: disaster relief, efforts to combat terrorism and drug trafficking, trade and investment opportunities, infrastructure and education) in order to promote stability in Afghanistan and the neighbouring countries. Following the founding meeting, further ministerial meetings were held in this framework: in June 2012 in Kabul and in April 2013 in Almaty.
On 5 December 2011, ten years after the first Petersberg Conference, Germany hosted another International Afghanistan Conference in Bonn at the request of the Afghan President. 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 organisations, 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 recognises 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 and growth) and 16 indicators which the Afghan government commits itself to implementing.
The Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF) has since informed relations between donors and the Afghan government by laying down a system of mutual commitments. The main commitment on the donor side is to provide a total of USD 16 billion for development and reconstruction by the end of 2015. In return, the Afghan government has undertaken to implement comprehensive reforms.
On the basis of the TMAF, the international community and the Afghan government have agreed on a list of concrete conditions to be fulfilled: these 17 Hard Deliverables (HD) are measurable commitments and create a transparent coordinate system that defines priorities and increases pressure on the Afghan government to implement reforms.
To preserve the credibility and effectiveness of the Tokyo Process and justify the international community’s substantial financial commitments, Germany has successfully called for a (second) review, at ambassador level, on 29 January 2014 in Kabul and has created a joint evaluation framework to assess the HDs’ implementation status. The result: nine of the 17 HDs can now be regarded as fulfilled (in particular electoral legislation and institutions) and all 11 presidential candidates agreed to commit to the Tokyo Process.
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. The upper limit of troops was downsized for the first time in 2012. The German Bundestag adopted the most recent ISAF mandate on 20 February 2014. It provides for an upper limit of 3,300 German troops and runs until 31 December 2014. Germany remains the third largest troop provider in Afghanistan. When the 2014 ISAF mandate ends, a follow-up mission, called Resolute Support, is planned, which will no longer be a combat mission. Under certain conditions, Germany has agreed to support this mission by providing some 800 troops.
Since 2003, Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) have been active in Afghanistan to stabilise the country’s provinces and help rebuild government, civil and social infrastructure.
The PRTs’ job was to establish “security islands” that were not only designed to have a stabilising effect on the local military situation but also contained components to support reconstruction and strengthen the Afghan administration and security forces in the provinces.
The German PRTs were institutions that, in line with the networked security approach, largely integrated, both spatially and functionally, all government and – as far as possible – non-governmental organisations that were helping to promote the country’s reconstruction and development so as to enable close coordination and concerted action. PRTs were not per se military institutions, but the military was an important factor here because of the security situation and the deployment of resources.
The German-led PRTs in Kunduz and Faizabad were wound up and handed over as part of the transition begun in July 2011, which shifted the responsibility for security from ISAF to the Afghan security forces.
As the country leading the Regional Command North, Germany provides the military headquarters in Mazar-i-Sharif as well as the logistics base for all ISAF forces deployed in northern Afghanistan. Germany also supports ISAF across the country by providing air transport capacity.
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 the end of 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. Literacy courses, 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 building training capacities. To this end, Germany has set up a total of four Police Training Centres (PTCs), in Mazar-i-Sharif, Kunduz, Faizabad and Kabul, with a total capacity of 2,100 trainees. Following the handing over of the Police Training Centre in Faizabad to the Afghan National Police back in July 2012, Afghanistan took over the PTC in Kunduz in August 2013 and that in Mazar-i-Sharif in July 2014. The transfers were preceded in each case by intensive measures to prepare the PTC leaders, the instructors and the administrative and operating staff for their future duties. Another core task of the GPPT is training Afghan police instructors. At the German Police Training Centre in Kabul, German police train Afghan police instructors who are subsequently deployed across the country.
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 European Council on Foreign Relations has agreed to extend the EU’s engagement in building the Afghan police force beyond 2014.
There are a total of 27 nations participating in EUPOL Afghanistan, including some non-EU countries such as Canada and New Zealand.
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, Germany is making an important contribution to cultural reconstruction 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.
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 of teachers as well as cultural cooperation, especially in the theatre and film sectors and photography. In addition, the Federal Foreign Office funds the restoration of cultural and historical monuments and supports efforts to rebuild the Afghan sports sector, with the focus on promoting football. Measures are being implemented to rebuild Afghanistan’s media landscape by both 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.
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