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 Kingdom 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 a year at different 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. At the Conference, the international community pledged not to 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. This pledge of continued international engagement in Afghanistan during the transformation decade (2015-2024) was reaffirmed at the International Conferences in Tokyo in 2012, in Brussels in 2016 and in Geneva in 2018. At the NATO Summit in Brussels on 11 and 12 July 2018, the Alliance partners agreed to continue funding the Afghan security forces until 2024 in order to maintain their ability to assume responsibility for the country’s security. Germany contributes 150 million euros in funding every year. The NATO mission, Resolute Support, focuses on training, advising and assisting the 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 Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a bilateral agreement on cooperation between Germany and Afghanistan. This partnership agreement governs Germany’s long-term relations with Afghanistan. Thematically, it covers all major areas of the countries’ bilateral relations. 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 make this possible the German Bundestag first agreed on 22 December 2001 to deploy German armed forces, 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. Within the scope of this mission, Germany – assisted by 19 partner nations – assumed responsibility for northern Afghanistan, where it would operate out of Mazar-e-Sharif. The Bundestag most recently approved the deployment of armed combat forces under the RS mission on 22 March 2018. Germany contributes up to 1300 troops, mainly in Mazar-e-Sharif, Kunduz and Kabul.
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 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 stabilisation and development cooperation for the period 2017-2020 at the Afghanistan Conference held in Brussels in October 2016.
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.
Alongside 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, urban development and municipal infrastructure (including water and energy). Furthermore, the German Government is promoting basic education and supports the Afghan Government as it tackles the challenges of increasing internal displacement, including refugees from neighbouring countries and those returning from 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 initiated by 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.
According to United Nations (UNOCHA) surveys, around 6.3 million people in Afghanistan currently require humanitarian assistance. Funding totalling 612 million US dollars will be needed in 2019 for this purpose. In 2018, the German Government funded humanitarian relief measures in Afghanistan to the tune of around 19.3 million euros. The focus was on help for internally displaced persons and refugees, humanitarian disaster prevention, humanitarian mine action as well as assistance for landmine victims.
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 progress – have been made in all areas.
Germany’s bilateral engagement is channelled through the German Police Project Team (GPPT), whose main task is to support the police training system. 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 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 force and is the only donor financing literacy courses for Afghan police officers nationwide. Germany is also funding dialogue projects between the police and civil society with a view to improving relations between the police and local communities.
Culture and education
When cultural relations were resumed in 2002 it was possible to draw on a well-established network of dedicated Germans and Afghans, and to revive the traditional cooperation between schools, universities and other cultural institutions. With donations of several million euros a year, Germany is making an important contribution to cultural reconstruction in Afghanistan. Among other things, these funds are being used to support the highly regarded Amani Secondary School for Boys and the Aysha-e-Durani Secondary School for Girls as well as the academic rehabilitation of Afghanistan’s universities through bilateral university cooperation projects and scholarships.
In the winter semester 2017-18, 524 Afghans were enrolled in German universities on the basis of foreign school-leaving exams and a further 837 Afghan nationals were enrolled on the basis of qualifications gained in Germany. According to the German Rectors’ Conference, eight university partnerships currently exist between German and Afghan institutions. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) runs the AMEA project – Academic Mining Education in Afghanistan –- through which the DAAD supports measures to train experts and managers in the Afghan mining sector.
In 2017, the DAAD helped support a total of 1561 Afghan graduates in their studies, teaching and research. The DAAD also funds stays in Afghanistan for five researchers or university teaching staff from Germany. By 2017, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation had awarded research scholarships to 20 Afghan scientists.
As part of the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative Fund (DAFI), 942 sur place scholarships were awarded in 2017 to Afghan refugees living in various third countries. Afghan refugees are one of the main target groups of the DAFI programme.
Afghanistan has a distinctive media landscape which is diverse and relatively free by regional standards. To promote freedom of expression, the Federal Foreign Office supports independent media organs and funds cross-border media dialogues as well as communication Projects.
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.