By Saifullah Ahmadzai*
Afghanistan and Germany share a long history of bilateral ties that began when a delegation was sent by the German emperor in 1915 in order to build ties with Afghanistan. The mission was not successful, but it laid the groundwork as, on its return to Germany, they began research on Afghanistan, paving the way for future cooperation between the two countries.
As early as 1926, bilateral relations were laid down in writing by the Treaty of Friendship between Germany and Afghanistan. After the Second World War, relations between the two nations strengthened at all levels.
Since the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries, Germany has undertaken a number of important infrastructure projects in Afghanistan such as the construction of the Darulaman Palace, construction of the road from Darulaman to Pul-e-Artal and schools were among the most important German projects in Afghanistan. Hundreds of Afghan technicians have also gone to Germany for training.
During the Weimar Republic era, Afghan King Amanullah Khan and the Egyptian King Faruk were the only heads of state who visited the largely isolated Berlin. Amanullah Khan’s visit attracted attention and served as a symbolic sign. As a result, economic relations improved. It was not surprising that by end of the 1930s, 70 percent of Afghan industrial equipment was imported from Germany, and German companies such as Siemens were assisting Afghanistan’s infrastructure programs.
Germany had also planned a project to build a railway network in Afghanistan, but the project was not implemented due to the fall of the Amanullah Khan regime.
The two countries remained in touch during the Second World War. Afghanistan showed strict neutrality in the conflict. When the international community asked Afghanistan to surrender the 180 Germans living in the country, Afghanistan refused. This was contrary to the principles and culture of Afghan hospitality. Later it was agreed that the Germans would be expelled, but escorted by Afghans forces and diplomats.
German support for Afghanistan
Germany has supported the Afghan government in all historical periods. During its 105-year partnership with Afghanistan, it has paid close attention to Afghan refugees and students pursuing higher education in Germany.
After the overthrow of the Taliban regime in late 2001, the bilateral relationship between the two countries touched new height and they came much closer to each other than any other time in history. Germany held two ground-breaking conferences on the future of Afghanistan in 2001 and 2011 and worked together with the international community to provide comprehensive support for the country.
Germany is one of the most important countries in the world, having made significant contributions to Afghanistan’s reconstruction over the past fourteen years. The country also sent troops to Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and provided significant assistance in rebuilding Afghanistan’s economic infrastructure. In addition, German political, scientific, and cultural institutions currently have a tangible presence in our country; and all are working for the betterment of Afghanistan.
More than 5,000 German security forces were in Afghanistan till 2014 on a mission in the northern provinces of Afghanistan in the framework of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). About 980 of them are still here and busy advising, planning, training, and developing Afghan security forces. Moreover; during the past two decades, they have lost more than 50 soldiers in this mission for the better and prosperous future of Afghans.
Largest financial donor
Germany is the second-largest financial donor since 2001. It has given millions of dollars annually to the Afghan security forces, and for various developmental projects. They have also provided opportunities for higher education in Germany for Bachelor, Master and Ph.D. students through German Academic Exchange Service or DAAD and many other scholarship schemes, which played a key role in training the next generation.
Germany hosted two international conferences on Afghanistan. Apart from the obvious explanation that Germany,
unlike France or Britain, has been more circumspect in its statements on political issues, there were other reasons for choosing Germany as the venue of this conference. Since Germany had no colonial past in this region, it’s no wonder that the Afghans looked upon Germany as a benevolent country. And Germany has been always a respectful ally.
The first one was held at Hotel Petersberg, Bonn in December 2001 It laid the foundation for this ongoing partnership between Afghanistan and the international community and which renewed the mutual commitment to a stable, democratic, and prosperous future for the Afghan people. The result of this conference was to establish an Interim Authority under the chairmanship of Hamid Karzai and followed by the Transition Authority.
The second conference in Bonn city was held 10 years later in December 2011, where the focus was given to issues like:
· The civil aspects of the process of transferring responsibility to the government of Afghanistan by 2014,
· Long term engagement of the international community in Afghanistan after 2014,
· And the political process that is intended to lead to the long-term stabilization of the country.
In 2012 Germany showed its commitment that they will not leave Afghanistan after 2014 and signed an agreement of strategic partnership with Afghanistan. This agreement reaffirmed all treaties and agreements the countries have signed throughout its historical ties. Moreover; both parties agreed on bilateral cooperation in political, security, developmental, reconstruction, education, academic, cultural, economic and civil aviation areas.
German NGOs – promoting education
Germany-based NGOs such as GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, a German development agency headquartered in Bonn and Eschborn that provides services in the field of international development cooperation) and FES (Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, which is the oldest political foundation committed to the values of democracy and social justice) are working in various areas in Afghanistan. In response to diverse problems in Afghanistan since 2001, GIZ is actively involved in good governance, sustainable economic development, urban development, higher educational standards, and human rights, particularly the rights of women.
Their efforts played an important role in these areas. They have worked in structuring public administration faculty in Herat, Jalalabad, Kabul, Kandahar, and Mazar-e Sharif, which have been implementing bachelor programs in this area since 2013. German professors have provided professional coaching in Afghanistan to prepare the Afghan lecturers to teach their public administration courses. Now as a result of this project more than 3,000 students are enrolled for the bachelor course. Of these, almost 15 percent are women.
The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Afghanistan (FES) office in Kabul was established in 2002 with the aim to strengthen democratic institutions and civil society. The Foundation’s work in Afghanistan focuses in particular on the exchange of ideas and discussion on topics such as youth and politics, political participation of women and gender mainstreaming, conflict transformation and reconciliation, media and freedom of speech, and strengthening civil society. This helped in creating bright, young leaders and politicians who are now actively involved in government and decision-making.
In the area of trade, Germany is a good market for Afghan dry fruits, saffron, carpets, and handicrafts. Statistics show there is a visible expansion in the exports since 2010. In 2012, the total exports of Afghanistan to Germany was less than one million US dollar. It was raised by 500 percent and reached 5.3 million US dollars at the end of the National Unity Government (2018).
Both sides have the opportunity to further expand bilateral trade by providing facilities to traders and also in constructing air corridors which have already given good result with China and India.
Afghanistan is considered a rich country in terms of having 1,400 mineral fields containing barite, chromite, coal, copper, gold, iron ore, lead, natural gas, petroleum, precious and semi-precious stones, salt, sulfur, talc, and zinc, among many other minerals. The country’s natural resources have made Afghanistan among the world’s largest mine holders. As German companies have vast experience in the exploration of mines there are many opportunities for them to invest in these untouched sources. This will result in benefiting both sides and in further strengthening bilateral relations.
Germany has remained Afghanistan’s staunch partner throughout history and played a tremendous role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Now the relations can move a step further and intensify through bilateral, political, economic, trade, investment and cultural relations.
*About the author: The writer is a researcher at Regional Studies Center, Academy of Sciences of Afghanistan (ASA), Kabul. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at [email protected]
Source: This article was published by South Asia Monitor