German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet has decided to extend the military mission in Afghanistan for another year, Deutsche Welle reported, adding that a leaked document showed government expressing doubts about the prospects of peace in Afghanistan.
According to the report, this comes a day after an internal strategy paper showed Germany had offered to host another peace conference, this time with an extra invitation for the Taliban.
Germany’s Bundeswehr currently has around 1,200 soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, part of NATO's Resolute Support mission.
In December, reports emerged that the US President Donald Trump was planning to withdraw around half of the US military's 14,000 troops in Afghanistan. However, no confirmation or details have yet been announced.
In fact, the US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said recently that recent agreements reached with the Taliban during Doha talks were around a peace agreement and not a troop “withdrawal agreement”.
Deutsche Welle meanwhile reported that an internal document leaked to German weekly Der Spiegel on Tuesday (and released on Wednesday) showed the government expressing doubts about the prospects of peace in Afghanistan and apparently criticizing any potential US withdrawal plans as naive and overly hasty.
The report stated that in a strategy paper addressed to selected Bundestag members, the government said Washington was making an effort to find a political solution quickly in order to pave the way for a military withdrawal. But experience had shown that "such a process can last several years without decisive breakthroughs," especially "in the face of the complex inner-Afghan and international negotiating position."
Deutche Welle reported that the document, which was signed off by Angela Merkel's office, the Defense Ministry, and the Foreign Ministry, added: "Should the US withdraw its military engagement significantly, the government will thoroughly reassess its actions in Afghanistan."
The news report stated that Foreign Ministry spokesman Rainer Breul played down the significance of the 11-page dossier at a regular press conference on Wednesday, pointing out repeatedly that the US had not yet communicated any concrete withdrawal plans.
"This is not a document about the USA, it's about Afghanistan, and our thoughts for a peace process and how we can support it, either militarily, or on a civilian level, or on development cooperation," he said.
Breul also said that the mooted peace conference, mentioned in passing in the paper, was merely the reiteration of an offer Germany had made many times before. "Our line remains very clear, that we need an inner-Afghan peace process, that we would support if it is desired, no more and no less," he said.
Germany first hosted an Afghanistan peace summit at the Petersberg castle, outside Bonn, in December 2001. The resulting "Bonn Agreement" laid the foundations for the NATO-backed state-building efforts in Afghanistan following the alliance's invasion of the country.
This week's document, however, expressly mentions that the Taliban should be invited, though it added that such a conference should only take place at "an appropriate stage of the negotiations."
However, according to Deutsche Welle, government representatives were silent on Wednesday on exactly how long the Bundeswehr intended to stay in Afghanistan.