Last updated in April 2016
Germany and Afghanistan have a long history of relations. In 2015-2016, the two countries are celebrating 100 years of friendly relations, which began in 1915 with the establishment of initial contacts between the governments of the German Reich and the Emirate of Afghanistan. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were officially established in 1922.
After the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001, the German Embassy was re-opened 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 new Interim Administration. In addition, the German Consulate-General in Mazar-i-Sharif commenced work in June 2013.
The German Embassy and the Consulate-General maintain close contacts with political representatives in Afghanistan and supervise German humanitarian aid, development cooperation and reconstruction projects.
Afghanistan on the road to consolidation
Immediately after the fall of the Taliban regime, two ground-breaking conferences on the future of Afghanistan were held at the Petersberg guest house near Bonn in late 2001 and 2002. At the 2004 Berlin Conference, the international community reiterated its long-term commitment to Afghanistan. Since then, International Conferences on Afghanistan have been held approximately every two years. The next Afghanistan Conference is scheduled for October 2016 in Brussels.
On 5 December 2011, ten years after the first Petersberg Conference, Germany once again hosted an International Conference on Afghanistan in Bonn. The key message of the conference was that the international community will not abandon Afghanistan, even after the termination of NATO’s ISAF combat mission at the end of 2014. In return, the Afghan government will push ahead with major reforms. These principles, which were reaffirmed in Tokyo in 2012 and in Kabul in 2015, form the basis for current international engagement in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan in the Transformation Decade (2015-2024)
The NATO Summit held in Chicago on 20 and 21 May 2012 secured long-term funding of the Afghan security forces after completion of the handover of responsibility for security to the Afghan side 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 the Afghanistan National Development Strategy. At this conference, a road map for the period 2015-2024 was adopted and underpinned with international financial commitments up to 2016. 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. A follow-up conference to Tokyo is scheduled for October 2016 in Brussels.
Bilateral Cooperation Agreement
On 16 May 2012, Federal Chancellor Merkel and President Karzai signed a bilateral agreement on cooperation between Germany and Afghanistan. This partnership agreement regulates Germany’s long-term relations with Afghanistan. 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. Both countries have ratified the partnership agreement.
On 16 March 2015, the United Nations Security Council unanimously voted to extend the mandate for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). The new Resolution 2210 (2015) extends by another year the mandate of the mission set up under the terms of Security Council Resolution 1401 (2002).
The International Contact Group on Afghanistan comprises some 60 countries and organisations. It is chaired by the Special Representative of the Federal Government for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ambassador Sabine Sparwasser. The most recent meeting of the Contact Group was hosted by Germany and held in Berlin on 3 February 2016.
German armed forces in Afghanistan
From December 2001 onwards, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) implemented the United Nations mandate to support the Afghan authorities in maintaining security. 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. The ISAF mandate ended on 31 December 2014.
In the immediate wake of ISAF, the Resolute Support Mission (RSM) was launched. Under the terms of this mission, Germany – assisted by 20 partner nations – assumed responsibility for operations in Mazar-i-Sharif in the north of the country. On 18 December 2014 and again on 17 December 2015, the German Bundestag approved the deployment of armed combat forces under RSM, which provides for some 12,000 troops, up to 980 of them Germans. The mission is tasked with training, advising and supporting the Afghan security institutions.
This training and advisory mission became possible after the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) had assumed complete responsibility for the country’s security.
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, Kabul and Tokyo 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 and including 2016. At the 2012 Tokyo conference, this was made conditional on the Afghan government’s making progress in implementing reforms. This was reaffirmed at the second London Conference in December 2014 and at a meeting of high-ranking national delegates in Kabul in September 2015. At the upcoming Afghanistan Conference in Brussels in October 2016, the international community will review progress in the implementation of the commitments made by the Afghan government and decide on future civilian engagement in Afghanistan.
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 provide a quick, targeted and visible response to Afghanistan’s serious problems. Priorities are security sector reform (building an Afghan police force), stabilisation projects in the north of the country, which is the focus of German engagement (building 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.
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 five selected priority areas of development cooperation: water, energy, good governance, education and promoting business and employment. The foundation for German engagement is the Reliable Partnership in Times of Change – the New Country Strategy for Afghanistan 2014-2017, which was adopted in March 2014. Afghanistan remains by far the biggest recipient of Germany’s Official Development Assistance (ODA).
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 (Herat, Ghazni) and especially in Kabul.
Rebuilding the Afghan police force
As of 1 January 2015, Afghanistan assumed responsibility for security for the whole of the country and its population. In order to be able to live up to this responsibility and ensure a safe environment for reconstruction, a functioning and reliable Afghan police force is indispensable. Strengthening and further developing the police force that has been established and trained in recent years therefore remains one of the key priorities of the Federal Government, the EU and the international community. Consulting, training, literacy courses, 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.
Germany’s bilateral engagement here focuses on the German Police Project Team (GPPT), which supports the police training system in particular. To this end, Germany has built four Police Training Centres (PTCs) – in Mazar-i-Sharif, Kunduz, Faizabad and Kabul – which have a total capacity of 2,100 trainees and were handed over to the Afghan National Police between 2012 and 2014. The GPPT’s work now focuses on providing advice to key functionaries in Afghanistan’s Ministry of the Interior, the National Police Academy and the PTC in Mazar-i-Sharif. In addition, targeted further-training measures are being conducted for those entrusted with special tasks, e.g. the border police at Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif Aiports, and mentoring measures involving German police agencies are being expanded.
As one of the principal donors, Germany is also making a substantial contribution to funding the salaries of the Afghan police, thus playing a major role in fighting corruption and promoting the rule of law in Afghanistan.
Culture and education
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, 9.6 million children now go to school again, including some 3.2 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 schools, 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 to support 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) as well as the academic rehabilitation of Afghanistan’s universities through bilateral university cooperation projects and scholarships.
Both the Goethe Institute and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) have offices in Kabul. The Goethe Institute is engaged in language work and further training of teachers as well as cultural cooperation, especially support of literary and translation work. In addition, the Federal Foreign Office is providing substantial funding to protect Afghanistan’s cultural heritage under its Cultural Preservation Programme and is supporting efforts to rebuild Afghanistan’s sports sector, with a focus on promoting football.
A particular success story is the building of a distinctive media landscape in Afghanistan, which is diversifying regionally as well as being relatively free. To promote unrestricted freedom of expression, the Federal Foreign Office supports independent media organs and the state-run broadcaster Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) as well as funding cross-border media dialogues to raise public awareness in connection with the refugee crisis and prevent a brain drain. Through the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, the Federal Foreign Office offers training and further-education courses for young journalists.
To mark the 100th anniversary of the establishment of relations between Germany and Afghanistan, an Afghan Cultural Week was held in Berlin in December 2015. The programme, which was designed to appeal to young people, featured numerous events showcasing a country engaged in a process of transition and embarking on a new era.