Last updated in March 2015

Political relations

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. In 2015, 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.

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 Interim Administration. In addition, a German Consulate-General was opened in Mazar-i-Sharif 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, most recently in December 2014 in London.

On 5 December 2011, ten years after the first Petersberg Conference, Germany hosted another International Conference on Afghanistan in Bonn. The key message of the conference was that the international community will not abandon Afghanistan, even after the withdrawal of international combat troops 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, form the basis for the current international engagement in Afghanistan in the Transformation Decade (2015-2024).

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 most recent ministerial meeting in this framework was held in Beijing in October 2014.

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 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 (TMAF).

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 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.

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. At the same time, it became clear during the review that two years after the Tokyo Conference it is necessary to update and further develop the government commitments.

The London Conference on Afghanistan, which was held on 3 and 4 December 2014, was originally intended to be an assessment of the Tokyo Process, which was to form the basis for the further development of the reform agenda in the coming years. However, given the fact that agreement on the formation of a government was reached only shortly before the conference began, the focus was on underscoring solidarity with the National Unity Government, welcoming and acknowledging its ambitious plans for reform and reaffirming the commitments already undertaken. The joint final communiqué does make mention of the challenges that Afghanistan faces in the coming years, but both an analysis and updating of the TMAF’s reform demands were deferred until a Senior Officials Meeting scheduled for autumn 2015. That is probably also when the tentative course will be set for the post-Tokyo phase, which will then be decided on in 2016 at the next Ministerial Meeting.

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. 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 50 countries and organisations 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. The most recent meeting of the Contact Group was hosted by the United Arab Emirates and held in Abu Dhabi on 29 January 2015.

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, initially only 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. From August 2003 onwards, the ISAF mandate applied to the whole of Afghanistan.

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 provided for an upper limit of 3,300 German troops and ran until 31 December 2014. Until the end of 2014, Germany was the third largest troop provider in Afghanistan.

In the immediate wake of ISAF, the Resolute Support Mission (RSM) was launched, initially for a period of two years. Under the terms of this mission, Germany – assisted by 20 partner nations – has assumed responsibility for the “northern spoke”. Immediately after taking office, the new Afghan government signed the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States and the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with NATO, thus meeting the long-awaited requirements for further support of the Afghan army. On 18 December 2014, the German Bundestag approved the deployment of armed combat forces under RSM, which provides for some 12,000 troops, up to 850 of them Germans.

The Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) have completely assumed responsibility for the country’s security.

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 leading country in Train Advise Assist Command North (TAAC-N) under the terms of RSM, Germany provides the military headquarters in Mazar-i-Sharif as well as the logistics base for all RSM forces deployed in northern Afghanistan.

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. This was reaffirmed at the second London Conference in December 2014.

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), stabilisation projects in the north of the country, which is the focus of German engagement (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.

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 five 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 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 (including Herat and Ghazni) and especially in Kabul.

Rebuilding the Afghan police force

As of 1 January 2015, Afghanistan has 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. 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.

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 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. The GPPT’s work now focuses on providing advice to key functionaries in the 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.

The work focuses on advising and mentoring the top ranks of the Afghan police and senior Interior Ministry officials, building a criminal investigation department, fighting corruption and strengthening structures conducive to the rule of law and cooperation between the police and the public prosecutor’s office. The European Council on Foreign Relations has agreed to extend the EU’s engagement in building the Afghan police force until the end of 2016.

As one of the principal donors, Germany, too, is 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.

Cultural relations

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 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 is funding the restoration of cultural and historical monuments and supporting efforts to rebuild the Afghan sports sector, with a 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.

Afghan family on the way

Development cooperation

Afghanistan is a partner country of German development cooperation. For more information please visit the website of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development

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