Germany is reducing its military presence in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz, a stronghold of the Taliban where German troops have been advising Afghan forces on the fight against the insurgents for years, the military said on Tuesday.
The move was planned by NATO’s mission in Kabul in late summer and is not a reaction to the United States’ announcement last week that it will cut U.S. forces in Afghanistan to 2,500 from 4,500 by mid-January, a spokesman for Germany’s Joint Operations Command said.
The drawdown of foreign forces, even though peace talks for the country are stalled, could mean greater influence for the Taliban in Afghanistan, marking further challenges for a nation torn by two decades of war and now ravaged by COVID-19.
Germany started to redeploy its around 100 troops from the camp in Kunduz, which is located inside a larger Afghan base, about a week ago, the German military spokesman said.
If military advisers were needed in Kunduz in future, German troops would be flown there from a large base in Mazar-i-Sharif where around 1,000 German soldiers are stationed, he said.
With roughly 1,200 troops, Germany has deployed the second largest military contingent in Afghanistan after the United States.
German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said earlier on Tuesday, Berlin expected to learn more details on the planned U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in the coming days.
“When the Americans specify over the coming days what troops they intend to pull out and which locations will be affected, we will see what short term effects the drawdown will have for our mission there,” she said.
Kunduz has symbolic value for the German military and people as it is the place where Germany has lost more troops in combat than anywhere else since the end of World War Two.