COLOGNE, Germany – Governments in Germany and other NATO countries are concerned about reports of a significant US withdrawal from Afghanistan during the final weeks of the Trump administration.
Fears of a hasty retreat amid unfinished peace talks were fueled on this side of the Atlantic by reports that the new Pentagon leader, seen as loyal to President Donald Trump, could announce a redeployment of thousands of troops this week.
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said the sudden withdrawal by America, which is critical to coalition operations in the war-torn country, would undermine NATO strategy. The plan envisions continued military pressure on Taliban fighters and to train government forces with the aim of establishing the conditions for an eventual withdrawal of all coalition forces.
“Will there be a White House decision that deviates from that agreement?” Kramp-Karrenbauer asked during a speech on Tuesday. Ongoing negotiations about Afghanistan’s future have not resulted in success towards a sustainable peace deal, he said.
“We all activate sensors and antennas, including the whole pond,” he said.
Earlier in the day, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also did the same.
“We are now facing a difficult decision. We have been in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years, and no NATO ally wants to stay longer than necessary. But at the same time, the price for going too fast or in an uncoordinated manner can be very high, “Stoltenberg said in a statement.
According to US news reports, the White House is considering reducing the American contingent by nearly half, with 2,500 troops remaining. NATO’s combined footprint is around 12,000 troops, with the German portion capped at 1,300.
President Trump has made bringing home US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq a key objective of his term. Following Trump’s election defeat this month, his term will end on January 20, 2021, with the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.