Germany will remain a partner in Afghanistan
"We have once again made it clear that we have invested a lot of strength and a lot of sympathy in our relations, and that we intend to carry on investing in this way," said Chancellor Angela Merkel after her meeting with President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, who was on an official visit to Germany to mark the 100th anniversary of German-Afghan friendship.
Supporting the development of Afghanistan
With a view to Germany’s engagement in Afghanistan, the Chancellor emphasised, "German troops will continue to be in Afghanistan for the next few years, and German soldiers have lost their lives in Afghanistan. We owe it to them in particular to steer development in Afghanistan in a sound direction."
The Afghan President commented, "The greatest honour we can bestow on you, is to create a secure and stable future for the country, so that my country becomes a responsible actor on the international stage, and so that it honours its commitments."
Common fight against terrorism
Given the difficult security situation in Afghanistan, it is important to forge ahead with the political process, which involves talks with the Taliban, declared Angela Merkel.
Since terrorist threats are omnipresent in Afghanistan too, and the common fight against terrorism affects vast regions of the world, close dialogue is essential. "We are willing to accept responsibility in future too in northern Afghanistan. Firstly, we will increase the German contingent to 980 soldiers, and we have already spoken to our partners in the north of the country, about the fact that our pledges go beyond 2016," she said.
President Ghani thanked the Chancellor, for continuing and expanding Operation Resolute Support. "You have not only made a German contribution, but also a European and a global contribution," he underscored.
The German government has extended the current mandate for the training mission Operation Resolute Support. The ceiling on troops is to be raised to 980 under the new mandate, which will run until 31 December 2016. The training mission is part of the comprehensive support the German government is providing for Afghanistan.
Stepping up development cooperation
Economic and development cooperation too are to be stepped up in future. "In the field of development policy we will further strengthen relations and align efforts with the needs of the Afghan side," said Angela Merkel. The priority is to provide technical and vocational education and training and to build housing in order to give young people genuine prospects.
In the coming year the German government is to provide the Afghan government with development assistance totalling 250 million euros. The priority areas of cooperation are good governance and sustainable economic development, along with energy, drinking water supply and sanitation, and basic education and vocational training.
Tackling illegal migration
Equally it is vital to strengthen the Afghan security forces – not only in view of the security situation per se, but also with respect to refugee movements and illegal migration. "Our longstanding police training work will be given a new focus: dealing with criminal human traffickers and passport forgery," stated the Chancellor. To this end the two countries will maintain a close dialogue.
There is a lot of incorrect information being circulated about the opportunity of fleeing to Germany. "The German Embassy in Afghanistan is already taking a proactive approach here, and publicising the fact that a great many rumours about Germany do not correspond to the facts, and that illegal migration often plunges people in Afghanistan into poverty and places them in difficult situations," explained Angela Merkel.
This is not in the interests of either Afghanistan or Germany. "We need legal opportunities to build a good future in Afghanistan. The young generation, for whom we have built schools, the girls for whom we want to create a future, must not be lost to the country." This will be reflected in Germany’s refugee policy vis à vis Afghanistan.
Creating better prospects in Afghanistan
Germany will uphold its humanitarian commitments to people in Afghanistan who have worked for the German troops, and who are acutely threatened as a result of this, reaffirmed the Chancellor. But when people leave Afghanistan for Germany simply because they hope for a better life, there are no grounds for granting asylum.
Germany will have to return these people to Afghanistan. "We must not raise false hopes, that people can just leave Afghanistan and come to Germany. That is not legal migration," she said. At the same time everything possible will be done to build Afghanistan, in order to give the people better prospects in the country.
President Ghani pointed to the "push and pull factors" in illegal migration. "The factors that push people out of our country are insecurity and poverty." Human trafficking is an appalling process. It is expensive and the losses are high. "We must ensure that people are given the right information, and that they have a realistic picture of Germany, where the streets are definitely not paved with gold," he said.
As the Chancellor underlined, both sides intend to stay in regular contact, in particular with the help of video conferences, to coordinate further developments. "Germany will continue to be a partner for Afghanistan, and our efforts will be directed towards ensuring that the country can develop well," she declared.
President Ghani added, "We aim to ensure that we enjoy a lasting and sustainable partnership with Germany, and that Germany continues to stand shoulder to shoulder with us and support us."
In the afternoon President Ghani met Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier for talks. In the evening they together opened the Afghan Culture Week in Berlin with an official performance by the Afghan-German music project "Safar" in the German Historical Museum.