The sun sets on Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province, Afghanistan

Afghanistan: Germany And Italy Complete Troop Withdrawals

The sun sets on Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province, Afghanistan

The last German and Italian troops in Afghanistan have returned home, bringing the Western mission in the country close to an end.

Announcements from several countries show a majority of European troops have now left, 20 years after the first Western soldiers were deployed. 

There was no update from NATO on how many nations still have soldiers in its Resolute Support mission.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed earlier this year that the UK would also "draw down" its forces - deployed as part of NATO - from the country.

Germany publicly announced the end of its almost 20-year deployment in a statement and a series of tweets from its defence minister on Tuesday.

These came shortly after the last plane carrying German troops had left Afghan airspace, with three transport aircraft landing at Wunstorf airbase in northern Germany on Wednesday afternoon.

The troops, wearing masks, lined up on the runway for a brief ceremony and went without a bigger reception because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"We have worked long and hard to stand here today," said Brigadier General Ansgar Meyer, the last commander of the German contingent.

"As your commander, I can say for you: 'Mission accomplished.'"

Watch: What impact could the US and NATO withdrawal have on Afghanistan?

The last Italian troops left their Afghan base in Herat and arrived at the military airport in Pisa, late on Tuesday.

Italy officially declared its mission in Afghanistan over in a statement on Wednesday, with Defence Minister Lorenzo Guerini paying tribute to the 53 Italians who died, and 723 who were injured over the past two decades.

Mr Guerini said Italy's commitment to Afghanistan would remain strong but in other forms, "beginning with the strengthening of development co-operation and support for Afghan institutions".

In April, NATO agreed to withdraw its roughly 7,000 non-American forces from Afghanistan.

The move matched US President Joe Biden's decision to pull all American troops from the country starting on 1 May.

It brings the NATO mission in Afghanistan near to a conclusion while the US' own withdrawal continues to loom with all American troops set to have left the country by 11 September, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks on New York and Washington.

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

Watch: Brigadier Max Marriner, former Commander of British Forces in Iraq, spoke to Forces News about the withdrawal.

This has moved many allies to wrap up their own presence in Afghanistan.

Romania brought home 140 troops on Saturday, bringing an end to the country's 19 years in Afghanistan.

Spain pulled its last troops out on 13 May, Belgium on 14 June and Denmark on 22 June.

Norway's troops returned home on Saturday, Estonia's on 23 June, the Netherlands' on 24 June, Finland's remaining small contingent on 8 June and Sweden's on 25 May.

Georgia's last troops returned home on Monday and Poland's defence minister said last week that Warsaw was withdrawing all its troops by the end of this week.

Cover image: The sun sets on Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province, Afghanistan (Picture: US Marine Corps).

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