Last updated in March 2018
Relations between Germany and Afghanistan have a long history. In 2015-2016, the two countries celebrated 100 years of friendly relations, which began in 1915 with 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 reopened in December of that year, initially as a German liaison office. Soon afterwards, in January 2002, the German Ambassador was the first head of mission to present his credentials to the new Interim Administration. The German Consulate General in Mazar-e-Sharif commenced work in June 2013.
The German Embassy in Kabul and the German Consulate General in Mazar-e-Sharif have been operating in a limited capacity since the attacks on 31 May 2017 and 10 November 2016, but continue to maintain close contacts with political representatives in Afghanistan and supervise German humanitarian aid, stabilisation measures and development cooperation.
Germany has chaired the International Contact Group on Afghanistan, which brings together some 60 countries and organisations, since its founding in 2009. The chair is currently held by the Special Representative of the Federal Government for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Markus Potzel. The Contact Group meets at regular intervals twice to three times a year at changing locations.
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.
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 would not abandon Afghanistan, even after the termination of NATO’s ISAF combat mission at the end of 2014. In return, the Afghan Government would push ahead with major reforms. These principles, which were reaffirmed in Tokyo in 2012 and in Brussels in 2016, form the basis for continued international engagement in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan in the Transformation Decade (2015-2024)
At the NATO Summit in Warsaw on 8 and 9 July 2016, the Alliance partners agreed to continue funding the Afghan security forces until 2020 in order to maintain their ability to assume responsibility for the country’s security. Germany contributes an annual 150 million euros in funding. The NATO mission, Resolute Support, focuses on training, advising and assisting Afghan defence and security forces. To underpin financially the international community’s long-term civilian engagement in Afghanistan, an international ministerial-level conference was held in Brussels on 5 October 2016. The international community promised Afghanistan financial assistance of up to 15.2 billion US dollars for the civilian sector, with the German Government vowing to contribute up to 1.7 billion euros of this amount. In return, the Afghan Government pledged to make progress on implementing a reform agenda agreed with the international community, an agenda that covers areas such as governance, anti-corruption, women’s rights and economic issues.
Bilateral cooperation agreement
On 16 May 2012, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and then Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a bilateral agreement on cooperation between Germany and Afghanistan. This partnership agreement regulates Germany’s long-term relations with Afghanistan. Thematically, it covers all major areas of Germany’s bilateral relations with Afghanistan. The agreement stipulates that commitments entered into, 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, and to reform public administration and fight corruption, are to be met by the Afghan side. Both countries have ratified the partnership agreement.
German armed forces in Afghanistan
German armed forces initially formed part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which helped Afghanistan maintain security from December 2001 to the end of 2014 on behalf of the United Nations. To pave the way for such participation, on 22 December 2001, the German Bundestag had agreed to deploy German armed forces for the first time, in implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1386.
In the immediate wake of ISAF, the follow-up mission Resolute Support (RS) was launched with the aim of providing training, advice and support to the Afghan defence and security forces. Under the terms of this mission, Germany – assisted by 19 partner nations – assumed responsibility for northern Afghanistan, where it would operate out of Mazar-e-Sharif. Most recently, on 1 December 2016, the German Bundestag approved the deployment of armed combat forces under the RS mission, which comprises some 13,500 troops, of whom up to 980 are German.
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.
German cooperation and humanitarian aid
According to surveys by the United Nations (UNOCHA), some 12 million people in Afghanistan currently require humanitarian aid, with the total aid needed in 2018 amounting to 437 million US dollars. In 2017, the German Government contributed a total of approximately 21.3 million euros to humanitarian relief efforts in Afghanistan. Priority areas included support for internally displaced persons and refugees, humanitarian disaster risk reduction, humanitarian mine and ordnance clearance as well as assistance for mine victims.
Civilian engagement is the focus of German cooperation in Afghanistan. In pursuance of the “responsible transfer of power” strategy and in view of the commitments made by the Afghan Government to ensure good governance and fight corruption, the German Government pledged up to 430 million euros per year for the period 2017-2020 at the Afghanistan Conference held in Brussels in October 2016. This support will help fund stabilisation measures and development cooperation in the country.
The projects launched by the Federal Foreign Office have their rationale in foreign and security policy and provide a quick, targeted and visible response to urgent problems. Priorities are building and training an Afghan police force; stabilisation projects in the north of the country, which is the focus of German engagement; capacity building in the administrative and judicial sectors with the aim of strengthening the state; promoting civil society; cooperation in higher education; and support for the peace and reconciliation process as well as the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Apart from the Federal Foreign Office, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is engaged in long-term programmes in the priority areas of economic development (including vocational training), good governance as well as urban development and municipal infrastructure (including water and energy). The German Government is also supporting basic education and helping the Afghan Government tackle the challenges posed by the growing number of internally displaced persons and refugees returning from neighbouring countries and Europe. Afghanistan remains by far the biggest recipient of Germany’s official development assistance (ODA).
The regional focus of German reconstruction work is northern 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 and especially in Kabul.
Supporting 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 German Government, the European Union and the international community. Consultancy, 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-e-Sharif, Kunduz, Faizabad and Kabul – which have a total capacity of 2100 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-e-Sharif. In addition, targeted further-training measures are being conducted for those entrusted with special tasks, e.g. the border police at the Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif airports, 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 and is the only donor financing literacy courses for Afghan police officers nationwide.
Culture and education
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 inter alia 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.
Afghanistan has a distinctive media landscape, one which is diversifying regionally as well as being relatively free. To promote freedom of expression, the Federal Foreign Office supports independent media organs and funds cross-border media dialogues as well as communication projects.
Young academics outside Afghanistan are also being supported through higher education. In 2016, as part of the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative Fund (DAFI), 712 sur place scholarships were awarded to Afghan refugees living in several third countries. Funding for this scholarship programme was provided by the Federal Foreign Office.
This text is intended as a source of basic information. It is regularly updated. No liability can be accepted for the accuracy or completeness of its contents.