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Germany Withdraws Last Soldiers From Afghanistan, Ending 20-Year Mission

A German soldier in a CH-53 helicopter on its way from Mazar-e Sharif to Kunduz, March 27, 2017.

Germany has withdrawn its last soldiers from Afghanistan, ending its nearly 20-year mission in the country, the Defense Ministry said on June 29.

The soldiers “are now on their way home,” Defense Minister Annagret Kramp-Karrenbauer said on Twitter. “This ends a historic chapter -- an intensive deployment that challenged and shaped us.”

Before the withdrawal was confirmed, Kramp-Karrenbauer said the withdrawal was happening "in an orderly manner, but also as swiftly as possible."

The German soldiers, who were part of NATO's Resolute Support mission, were flown out of the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif by the German Air Force on June 29, dpa reported, quoting unidentified sources.

Germany’s contingent, which focused on northern Afghanistan, was around 1,100 strong as of April. It was second in number only to the U.S. presence.

Kramp-Karrenbauer also thanked the more than 150,000 men and women of the German military who served in Afghanistan since 2001.

“You can be proud of what you accomplished. You have fulfilled all the tasks that the Bundestag gave you with professionalism and conviction,” she said in a statement on Twitter.

According to the German military, 59 German soldiers were killed while serving in Afghanistan. That included 35 killed in combat or the result of militant attacks.

The fighting in Afghanistan was the first that the German military engaged in since the end of World War II.

International forces are to complete their withdrawals from Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda on the United States that prompted the U.S.-led invasion and ouster of the Taliban government that sheltered the terrorist network.

Since the United States began withdrawing early last month, the Taliban has taken control of dozens of districts, raising concerns that the Western-backed government in Kabul and the Afghan security forces may collapse after foreign forces withdraw.

With reporting by dpa, DW, Reuters, AFP, and AP
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