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Last German, Italian troops leave Afghanistan after nearly 20 years deployed

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By Euronews with AP
Germany has ended its Afghanistan mission after a near 20-year deployment
Germany has ended its Afghanistan mission after a near 20-year deployment   -   Copyright  MICHAEL KAPPELER/AFP
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The last German and Italian troops left Afghanistan on Tuesday after a near 20-year deployment in the country.

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer tweeted that the last Bundeswehr soldiers “left Afghanistan safely” on Tuesday evening.

She thanked the more than 150,000 troops who have served there since 2001 and said that “they can be proud of this mission.”

The German military said that the last troops were on their way home via Tbilisi, Georgia, and that Brig. Gen. Ansgar Meyer, the last commander of the German contingent, was on board an Airbus A400M aircraft bringing them home.

NATO agreed in April to withdraw its roughly 7,000 non-American forces from Afghanistan to match US President Joe Biden’s decision to pull all American troops from the country starting May 1.

At the time, Germany had around 1,100 troops there.

Germany’s contingent, which focused on northern Afghanistan, was the second biggest in the current Resolute Support mission after the United States'. Its last bases were in Mazar-e-Sharif and Kabul.

“An historic chapter is coming to an end, an intense deployment that was exacting for the Bundeswehr and marked it, in which the Bundeswehr proved itself in battle,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said.

The German parliament first approved sending the military to Afghanistan in December 2001, and the first troops arrived in Kabul in January 2002.

Fifty-nine German troops died in Afghan missions over the years.

Around 750 containers' worth of equipment has been shipped back to Germany by land and air, including 120 vehicles and six helicopters, the Bundeswehr said.

The last Italian troops to leave Afghanistan were welcomed home at the military airport in Pisa by Defence Minister Lorenzo Guerini. They had been stationed in Herat, the third-largest city in Afghanistan.

Guerini paid tribute to the 53 Italian soldiers who lost their lives and the 723 who were injured over the past two decades and said that going forward, Italy’s commitment to Afghanistan would remain strong but in other forms, "beginning with the strengthening of development cooperation and support for Afghan institutions."

The German and Italian pull-back comes just two days after Georgia's troops returned home.
Romania and Norway pulled their troops on Saturday, the Netherlands, Estonia, Denmark, Finland and Belgium did so earlier this month while Spain and Sweden brought home their soldiers in late May.

Romania brought home 140 troops on Saturday, bringing an end to 19 years in Afghanistan. Spain pulled its last troops out on May 13, Belgium on June 14 and Denmark on June 22. Norway’s troops returned home on Saturday, Estonia’s on June 23, the Netherlands’ on June 24, Finland’s remaining small contingent on June 8 and Sweden's on May 25.

Poland should have withdrawn all of its troops by the end of this week, the defence minister said last week.

American officials have said the entire pullout of US troops will most likely be completed by July 4.