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KABUL: Germany withdrew its last troops from Afghanistan on Tuesday, ending nearly 20 years of its mission in this war-torn country, amid a total withdrawal of foreign troops led by the United States and fears that the country will fall back into anarchy.

Last night on Twitter, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said her last soldier had “left Afghanistan unharmed”.

About 750 containers of equipment were returned to Germany by land and air, including 120 vehicles and six helicopters, she said before thanking the more than 150,000 soldiers who had served in Afghanistan since the ousting of the Taliban in of a US-led invasion in 2001.

German troops “can be proud of this mission,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said.

Afghan officials said Wednesday that the presence of German troops had been “very effective” in Afghanistan, where the Taliban have been gaining ground since the phase-out process began on May 1.

It is expected to be completed on September 11, the anniversary of the Twin Towers attacks in the United States.

“There is no doubt that their assistance has been very effective, in particular in increasing the potential of the military capabilities of our troops,” Defense Ministry spokesman Fawad Aman told Arab News.

He added that German soldiers based in the northern region, particularly in Balkh province – the key city in the region – had “assisted the Afghan forces in terms of education, mentoring, conduct of offensives” and would also be involved in future projects.

“They pledged that the exit of troops does not mean the end of their assistance, and they will also help us in the future. They have also been involved in development projects in the region, ”said Aman.

Almost 60 German soldiers were killed during the mission in Afghanistan, where the resurgent Taliban staged deadly strikes against foreign troops and Afghan government forces.

German troops have come under fire in a series of airstrikes over the past two decades, which have also killed dozens of Afghan civilians, mostly in the northeastern province of Kunduz.

In one of these incidents, more than 90 Afghan civilians were killed in an attack in September 2009, prompting Germany to offer compensation of $ 5,000 for each individual, which the former Afghan Economy Minister said at the time was a “laughable sum”.

In retaliation for another deadly airstrike on Kunduz in 2016, the Taliban launched a suicide attack on the German consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif, the provincial capital of Balkh, in which a group of Afghan civilians were killed. While no German national was injured, the building housing the consulate was severely damaged.

In 2017, a powerful truck bomb outside the German embassy in Kabul killed dozens of Afghans, forcing Berlin to suspend its diplomatic mission in Afghanistan.

Commenting on the “enduring legacy” of German troops in the country, Afghan political scientist Zabihullah Pakteen said the people of Balkh believed the city “would not fall into the hands of the Taliban in the presence of its troops.”

“Warlords turned entrepreneurs have been the main beneficiaries of the German presence,” Pakteen told Arab News, highlighting some of the downsides.

“The deterioration of security in Afghanistan … The advances of the Taliban and the rapid losses of territory by the Afghan government have made Afghans feel that the world is abandoning their Afghan partners,” he added.

In April, the US-led coalition agreed to withdraw some 7,000 non-US forces from Afghanistan on the basis of a directive from President Joe Biden.

Since May 1, the Taliban have stepped up their attacks and invaded dozens of critical neighborhoods, confiscating weapons and armored vehicles from government forces.

In an effort to curb Taliban advances amid reduced numbers of foreign troops, the ailing government of President Ashraf Ghani distributed weapons and money through strongmen regions to people in certain regions as part of a controversial program in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, the top US commander in Afghanistan, General Scott Miller, highlighted the risk of a civil war as the remaining US troops prepare to withdraw from the country.

Miller said Afghanistan could face “very difficult times” if its leadership cannot unite after international troops leave.

“The security situation is not good at the moment. Civil war is certainly a path that can be visualized if it continues on the course it is currently on, ”he told reporters, adding:“ This should be of concern to the world. “

Afghan officials declined to comment on Miller’s warning when contacted by Arab News on Wednesday.

However, Ghani has in the past insisted that the country’s security forces are “fully capable” of keeping insurgents at bay.

About Dianne Stinson

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