Germany hopes to reduce security duties in Afghanistan by 2014 as aid continues

08:16, January 28, 2010      

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai (R) puts on his hat after a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Chancellery in Berlin January 27, 2010. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Germany supported the goal of completely transferring security duties to the Afghan forces by 2014, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday, after meeting visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who pledged his country would not be a "burden" of allies.

In a joint press conference with Karzai, Merkel said that she hoped the Afghan government could be fully responsible for security by 2014, but she also stressed the international support and financial aid should continue for a long time after troops' withdrawal from the strife-torn country.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Tuesday that Germany intended to begin reducing its troops from 2011 while gradually handing over responsibilities to Afghanistan.

However, the chancellor insisted it would be wrong to set a concrete date for leaving Afghanistan, because "we don't want to give the Taliban an excuse to go quiet and then launch a big attack."

On Tuesday, Merkel unveiled a new strategy for Afghanistan, adding up to 850 new troops, with a focus on training local police and security forces, of which 350 soldiers were to be kept as a "flexible reserve," who could be deployed to strengthen public security in specific events such as elections.

Germany also promised to provide 50 million euros (70 million U.S. dollars) over the next five years to an international fund aimed at bringing militants back to the mainstream, and roughly double its development aid to 430 million euros (605 million dollars).

These approaches came just two days ahead of a major NATO-led international conference on Afghanistan held in London on Jan. 28, which Karzai would attend after his German visit.

Germany has provided "extremely valuable assistance" to Afghanistan, Karzai told reporters.

"Afghanistan does not want to be a burden on the shoulder of our allies and friends," he said. "We wants to soon be defending our own territory, our own people, with Afghan means."

Karzai said his government would do their best to provide security in larger parts of the region over the next two or three years, and to take over all security responsibilities by the end of his five-year term in 2014, as Merkel suggested.

"We in Afghanistan see the impact of that help," he said. "It is unfortunately not felt as much in Germany, or in the rest of the world."

The Afghan mission is deeply unpopular among Germans. A poll, by the Forsa institute for Stern magazine, released Wednesday showed that 79 percent of the German respondent oppose sending extra soldiers.

Germany has NATO's third biggest contingent in Afghanistan after the United States and Britain, with around 4,500-strong troops deployed in the country's relatively safe north. Its NATO allies have been pressuring Berlin to increase troops.

Source: Xinhua
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