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German Troops Would Remain In Afghanistan Until January 2022 Under New Draft Mandate

Germany's contingent of nearly 1,100 troops is the second biggest in NATO's mission.

The German government has approved a new draft mandate under which German troops would stay in Afghanistan into early next year.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet approved the draft, which would enable German troops to stay until January 31, 2022, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on February 24.

Germany's contingent of nearly 1,100 is the second biggest in NATO's mission after the 2,500 U.S. troops. Their current mandate expires at the end of March.

The new draft mandate still needs the approval of Germany's lower house of parliament, the Bundestag.

U.S. President Joe Biden is reviewing his predecessor's 2020 deal with the Taliban, which includes a May 1 deadline to withdraw the remaining U.S. troops.

Allies are waiting for Biden to make a decision, while calls are mounting in Washington for the United States to delay the final exit or renegotiate the deal.

Germany's foreign minister, Heiko Maas, has said the withdrawal should be tied to progress in peace negotiations between the Kabul government and the Taliban.

He said the extension approved by the cabinet "takes account appropriately of the complex situation in Afghanistan and also makes possible the flexibility necessary to be able to react if the volatile security and threat situation there changes."

He also said that the maximum level of 1,300 German troops is unchanged.

The decision in Berlin comes a week after NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance had made "no final decision" on the future of NATO's presence in Afghanistan.

The NATO mission has just under 10,000 troops helping to train and advise Afghan security forces.

Stoltenberg acknowledged that NATO was facing "many dilemmas" over its engagement in the country and "there are no easy options."

Based on reporting by AP and AFP