Angela Merkel: Afghanistan Can Become a Hotbed of Terrorism After NATO Troop Withdrawal
10:42 GMT 25.08.2021 (Updated: 16:48 GMT 08.01.2023)
Western powers have been faced with a conundrum in the war-stricken country since the Taliban* retook power in Afghanistan on 15 August. NATO is now racing against time to evacuate its troops, citizens, as well as Afghans, who worked with them by 31 August.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Afghanistan can become a breeding ground for terrorists again after NATO withdraws its troops from the nation. "We should prevent this", the chancellor said.
"We have achieved the goal set in 2001, at the beginning of the mission. Since then, there have been no international terrorist attacks from Afghanistan. This was a contribution to the security of our country, a merit of our soldiers", Merkel said.
In a speech to parliament, the German head of government highlighted the importance of safeguarding what has been achieved by the NATO allies in Afghanistan over the past twenty years. Talks with the Taliban must continue to safeguard these achievements, Merkel said.
Evacuations to Continue
Earlier this week, western leaders warned that they wouldn't be able to evacuate their troops, citizens, and Afghan allies from the Central Asian nation by 31 August. Merkel said that Berlin would continue airlifting people out of Afghanistan despite the approaching deadline. We will do it for as long as justifiable, Merkel said, adding that efforts to support local staff should not end after the said deadline. At the same time, she stressed the importance of US assistance in evacuations.
The German chancellor said that Berlin's future decisions on Afghanistan will be coordinated with its international partners.
"Consultations have already started in the EU, NATO. and the G7, I also talked about this with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, this dialogue should be continued", she said.
Peace Deal and Takeover of Afghanistan
In February 2020, the Trump administration signed a peace deal with the Taliban, which effectively set the United States on a course towards ending its longest war. Under the deal, the White House promised to reduce the number of troops within 135 days, followed by a complete NATO withdrawal by May 2021. The terrorist group, for its part, promised to take part in peace talks with the West-backed Afghan government, something the Taliban militants have long refused to do, and agreed that Afghanistan would not harbour terrorists and prevent any individuals in the Central Asian nation from attacking the US and its allies.
"[The Taliban] will send a clear message that those who pose a threat to the security of the United States and its allies have no place in Afghanistan", the deal read. "[The Taliban agreed to] prevent any group or individual in Afghanistan from threatening the security of the United States and its allies, and will prevent them from recruiting, training, and fundraising and will not host them in accordance with the commitments in this agreement".
The said requirement is vitally important because this is exactly why the US started its campaign in Afghanistan in the first place. In the wake of the September 11th attacks, the Bush administration demanded the Taliban hand over Osama Bin Laden, co-founder of al-Qaeda*, whom the US accused of orchestrating 9/11. The Taliban refused, prompting the US to launch Operation Enduring Freedom.
This April, incumbent US President Joe Biden announced the pullout of American troops from Afghanistan. The Taliban "responded" with a major offensive on government forces, retaking cities one by one. By the middle of July, the group controlled more territory than it did in 2001, when it was toppled during the US-led invasion. That same month Biden was pressed by reporters on the Taliban's "success". The Democrat said it was "highly unlikely" that the group would seize power in Afghanistan. His forecast proved to be utterly wrong on 15 August, when the Taliban took the capital Kabul.
The news of the Taliban takeover prompted harsh criticism from US allies and even fellow party members. In a televised speech, Biden seemingly deflected the blame, putting it on his predecessor and saying he inherited the deal and was faced with two options.
"The choice I had to make, as your president, was either to follow through on that agreement or be prepared to go back to fighting the Taliban in the middle of the spring fighting season", Biden said.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hit back at the Democrat, saying the deal the Trump administration struck with the Taliban was on a "conditions-based withdrawal", meaning the Biden administration could have reneged on the agreement if it saw that the terrorist group was not honouring its obligations.
*The Taliban and al-Qaeda are terrorist organisations banned in Russia and many other nations.