Nato allies kept in dark about Trump's Taliban deal, inquiry hears

German officials say US ignored pleas to put conditions on withdrawal

FILE PHOTO: Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader of the Taliban delegation, and Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan, shake hands after signing an agreement at a ceremony between members of Afghanistan's Taliban and the U.S. in Doha, Qatar February 29, 2020. REUTERS/Ibraheem al Omari/File Photo
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Nato allies were kept in the dark about the US deal with the Taliban that led to the withdrawal from Afghanistan, an inquiry has heard.

A German diplomat said the deal was only shown to allies a day before it was announced in February 2020.

“We all hoped it would be better negotiated than it really was,” they said.

Another official said the US had ignored pleas to withdraw when conditions allowed, rather than setting a hard deadline.

The revelations were made to a German parliamentary committee investigating the exit from Afghanistan.

US and Nato forces ended their 20-year campaign in Afghanistan last year, prompting the swift return to power of the Taliban.

The US had agreed to withdraw under the 2020 deal, in return for Taliban promises to negotiate peace and prevent terrorism.

A former aide to Germany’s Nato staff said allies hoped the US would make its withdrawal conditional on the Taliban meeting its commitments.

Instead, they told the closed-door inquiry that they found the agreement vague and were surprised that all US troops would leave.

German diplomats had to transcribe the text of deal because officials in Donald Trump’s administration would not even let them take away a copy, the inquiry heard.

It echoed a report in August that British officials were kept out of the loop when secret annexes were added to the deal.

The second witness, a former director for Afghanistan and Pakistan in the German Foreign Ministry, said Berlin had raised its concerns with US officials.

They said plans for a German withdrawal were not made immediately because of the possibility that a new US president would come to power.

A Taliban guard near Kabul's international airport after the militants seized the capital last year. EPA

Joe Biden did defeat Mr Trump in the 2020 election and allies made another attempt to rethink the deal once he came to power.

However, no consensus could be reached with the US on linking the troop withdrawal to positive developments on the ground, the inquiry heard.

“We tried to couple together the military and civilian matters. We were not particularly successful,” the foreign ministry official said.

Mr Biden announced in April 2021 that the US withdrawal would go ahead, and Nato allies swiftly fell in behind him.

The Nato aide said he had feared at the time that an over-hasty withdrawal would leave unstable conditions on the ground.

In the event, Taliban forces quickly overran Afghanistan and seized Kabul before Nato forces had finished their withdrawal.

It led to questions about Europe’s reliance on the US and whether other Nato powers should be able to act more independently.

The German inquiry previously heard that intelligence was lacking on how resilient the Afghan forces would be.

The 12-member panel is examining the final phase of the war and whether Germany should have prepared better.

A separate inquiry will examine the wider sweep of the 20-year mission in Afghanistan.

Germany deployed 93,000 troops, of whom 59 died, in its biggest military intervention since the Second World War.

Updated: October 21, 2022, 2:00 PM
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