Germany prepares way for its troops to stay in Afghanistan

BERLIN (AP) - The German government is preparing the way for the country's troops in Afghanistan – the second largest NATO force contingent – to remain in place until next year if necessary.

On Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet approved a new draft mandate which will allow German troops to stay until January 31.

German troop deployments abroad require parliamentary approval, typically annually granted.

Afghanistan's current mandate expires at the end of March.

NATO in the war-ravaged country has just under 10,000 troops, helping train and advise Afghanistan's security forces.

Germany's nearly 1,100 contingent is the second largest after the United States in the Resolute Support Mission.

President Joe Biden is reviewing the Taliban 2020 deal with his predecessor, which contains a May 1 deadline for the final withdrawal of the United States troop.

In Washington, calls are being made for the US to delay or renegotiate the deal so as to allow a smaller American intelligence force to attend.

The withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan was said by German foreign minister Hiko Maas to be linked to progress in slow-moving peace negotiations between the Kabul Government and the Taliban rather than to the "slavish" time limit of May 1.

Seibert said that in the new mandate the maximum level of 1,300 German troops is unchanged.

He said his proposed expiry date "takes adequate account of Afghanistan's complex situation and also provides the flexibility to respond when the volatile security and threat situation changes."

It also aims to give the newly elected parliament and government of Germany an early say on what will happen in the future.

On Sept. 26 Germans elect a new parliament, but it takes usually weeks or even a few months before a new coalition administration is set up.