Germany wants troops to stay on in Afghanistan

Foreign Minister warned peace negotiations between the German government and the Taliban 'will not be concluded' before end of March

epa09005139 An Afghan soldier stands guard at the scene of a bomb blast that targeted vehicle of security officials in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, 11 February 2021. Afghanistan's major cities have been witnessing an increase in violence and targeted killings over the past one year, especially since the signing of a peace agreement between the United States and the Taliban in February last year.  EPA/GHULAMULLAH HABIBI
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Germany has announced it wants to extend its military presence in Afghanistan, where it has the largest contingent after the United States.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Saturday that peace negotiations between the German government and the Taliban "will not be concluded before the end of March," when Germany's annual mandate is scheduled to expire.

"That is why we must prepare for different scenarios, including a new mandate with the Bundestag," he told the Funke media group.

An agreement between the US and the Taliban stipulates that all US forces should withdraw by May 2021.

But a senior US official said on Friday that President Joe Biden faced "serious dilemmas" as the deadline approaches, and the Taliban show no sign of ending their violence.

The new US leader has ordered a review of the deal Washington cut with the Taliban last year.

It promised the withdrawal of all foreign forces by May 1 in return for security guarantees from the militants and a commitment to peace talks with the Afghan government.

Nato defence ministers are also to discuss this month whether the alliance's 10,000-strong mission should stay or go.

Donald Trump in his final days as US president unilaterally reduced US forces in Afghanistan to 2,500 - the lowest since the start of the war in 2001.

Several groups in Germany's parliament, in particular the liberals and far left, have called recently for a strategy of disengagement from Afghanistan after 20 years of military presence in the country.

Around 1,100 German soldiers are deployed in Afghanistan as part of its role in the Nato Resolute Support training, advice and assistance mission.

Afghanistan has suffered an upsurge in violence and a recent spate of high-profile killings of officials, judges, journalists and activists as the US and other foreign forces leave the country amid slow-moving peace talks.

This month, the European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič said that half of Afghans need humanitarian aid but rising violence is preventing deliveries.