German FM suggests troops withdrawal be linked with talks progress

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Tuesday the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan should be tied to progress in intra-Afghan negotiations rather than “slavishly” bound to the end-of-April deadline as per the US-Taliban agreement.

Speaking at an event organized by Die Zeit and three other German newspapers, Maas said: “Our fear is that the Taliban could use this as a reason to leave the peace talks and seek a military solution.”

“So our approach is to say that we must couple both processes, the withdrawal of foreign forces with the peace negotiations,” Maas added.

“We don’t have to hang on slavishly to the date of the end of April — these things must be linked and when the peace negotiations are concluded successfully, the time will have come to withdraw foreign troops.”

Maas said an agreement will have to be sought with the US, the Afghan government and the Taliban on the matter.

Germany is the second-biggest contributor to NATO’s Resolute Support training and assistance mission in Afghanistan, after the United States.

This comes amid growing concern that the peace talks in Doha have stalled as little progress has been made in almost a month.

Earlier this week, the Afghan Republic’s negotiating team claimed the Taliban are not currently participating. Instead, Taliban negotiators have been visiting officials this week in Iran.