German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere has made a surprise trip to Afghanistan. This particular trip is the first time a government official has gone to Afghanistan without a military escort.
De Maiziere arrived in Kabul on Monday after flying direct from Berlin in an Airbus airplane belonging to the government. Normally, visiting officials make a stop in Uzbekistan and fly the rest of the way in a military plane with advanced defense systems.
The plane landed in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, which is the region where Germany's roughly 4,800 troops are stationed.
"[Coming in a civilian plane] is a sign of the better security here in the north," said de Maiziere after landing. "I decided to do it today, but this won't always be the case."
After a brief stop in Mazar-i-Sharif, de Maiziere continued on to the Afghan capital, Kabul, for meetings with government officials. His flight to Kabul, however, was in a military transport plane equipped with flak jackets and helmets.
"I want to get an impression of how the Afghans are gradually and increasingly taking matters into their own hands," he said, referring to the fact that by 2014, responsibility for Afghanistan's security is set to pass from NATO troops to the Afghans themselves.
mz/kms (AFP, dpa)