After a mission lasting more than a decade, Germany's Bundeswehr is leaving its base in Kunduz in northern Afghanistan. If all goes according to plan nearly all foreign troops will have left the country by the end of 2014. But in many regions the Taliban are on the advance.
Reconstruction and building democracy - that became the mission once the Taliban had been pushed back by a US-led invasion in 2001. In the capital Kabul and the north of the country, where the Bundeswehr was stationed, the security situation was relatively stable. However, a fierce war of attrition against the Taliban and al Qaeda erupted in the south . According to some estimates bombs, attacks and forced displacement cost tens of thousands of civilians their lives.
Now, after more than 10 years, the balance sheet for the mission is a mixed one. Afghanistan does not have western-style democracy, the Afghan government is widely perceived as corrupt, drug cultivation is flourishing and the population is impoverished. No one seriously believes that the Afghan army will be able to hold its own against the Taliban and al Qaeda. Afghans are due to elect a new president in April 2014 and the old warlords are gearing up for the power struggle after NATO leaves.
Does NATO's withdrawal come too early - or is it long overdue? Does Afghanistan have a chance at a democratic future? Or is the country facing a new civil war?
Tell us what you think: Afghanistan - A Lost Cause?
Malaiz Daud – He is a Berlin-based independent analyst. Founder of Afghan Youth Foundation for Unity (AYFUn) and Young Leaders Forum (YLF), he has previously worked for the President’s Office, Ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development as well as Constitutional and Transitional Coordination Commissions in addition to CARE International, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) and Club de Madrid. He has a post-graduate degree in Post-War Recovery from the University of York. He is the author of numerous articles on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Robert Reid - he is Associated Press chief of bureau for Germany, Austria and Switzerland and has been a journalist for nearly 45 years, including about 15 years in the Middle East. During the US-led invasion of Iraq, he was a supervisory editor for the AP based in Doha and then spent the next six years as chief editor for the AP in Iraq. Later, he served as AP News Director for Afghanistan and Pakistan based in Kabul and was AP's chief editor for the Middle East based in Cairo before transferring to Berlin in 2012. He was born in April 1947 and educated at Davidson College in North Carolina. He spent three years in Augsburg as a US Army officer from 1970 until 1973.
Karin Schädler - works as a freelance journalist in Berlin, focusing on the topics of migration and religions, especially in the Arab world, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since Autumn 2012 she has been organizing journalism projects in Afghanistan for the Deutsche Welle Academy. For many years Schädler has been involved in international youth encounters and exchange programs, in particular with Arabic-speaking countries. She studied political science, philosophy and media sciences at the University of Mannheim and Johns Hopkins University in the US and was trained as an editor at the Berlin School of Journalism.