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Germany

German Minister Says Afghan Security Worse, Promises Support

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Saturday, July 26, that violence in Afghanistan had worsened this year and promised more German support for the building and reform of the Afghan police and military.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier and officials in Herat, Afghanistan

Frank-Walter Steinmeier right, listens to Afghan officials in Herat, Afghanistan

Aggression in the south of the country by Taliban insurgents has increased, Steinmeier said at a logistics school for the Afghan army, built by Germany in Kabul. The training of soldiers and police in Afghanistan must therefore be strengthened, he said.

"The international community and Germany are standing steadfastly on your side," said the German minister, who met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai the previous night and again on Saturday, for talks that touched on Berlin's decision to boost its troops in Afghanistan to 4,500 next year, the president's office said.

In addition to the logistics aid, Steinmeier promised 6 million euros ($9.4 million) for 2008 to help prepare for the Afghan presidential elections, saying the elections were important for the long-term stability of the country.

Karzai thanked Steinmeier for continued German support, saying "Germany was a good friend of Afghanistan."

Steinmeier also expressed concern about Pakistan and the impact of that country's domestic situation on Afghanistan.

'Fighting season'

Afghan National Army (ANA) reinforcement troops

Afghan National Army (ANA) reinforcement troops

Mark Laity, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) spokesman in Afghanistan, confirmed Steinmeier's impression that security was worse.

"We are currently in the middle of the fighting season," he said, pointing out that between 40 to 50 violent incidents of varying intensity were being registered in Afghanistan daily. These ranged

from single shots at NATO-led forces convoys to attacks with heavy explosives. Some 90 percent of these incidents happen in the south and east of the country.

By comparison, in the relatively calm north, where German troops are stationed, between one and two incidents are recorded each week. "Seventy percent of all incidents occur in 10 percent of the Afghan districts," said Laity.

Laity also criticized Pakistan, saying that insurgents come into Afghanistan through a nearly "open" border from Pakistan.

Some 200 Afghan soldiers are currently being trained at the logistics center in Kabul. The courses include vehicle and supply maintenance and driving lessons.

Stepping up presence

A Pakistani tribesman injured in a clash between Afghan forces and Taliban militants

A Pakistani tribesman injured in a clash between Afghan forces and Taliban militants

With 3,500 troops in the Afghanistan, Germany is the third-largest contributor to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) there. Berlin plans to increase the number to 4,500 this autumn.

Steinmeier, who had arrived earlier in the day on a surprise visit expected to last several days, met with the head of the European police mission in Afghanistan (EUPOL), German Brigadier-General Juergen Scholz, late Friday.

The EU wants to double the number of EUPOL instructors and advisors from 200 to 400. This would further strengthen EUPOL's influence, Scholz said. In all, the mission is on the right path, he said, pointing out that EUPOL was the only European organization active in the entire country.

Scholz however added that the Afghan police still had a long way to go before it would be able to carry out its duties independently. Its 75,000 to 85,000 officers suffer from a negative image with the general population. And a street policeman earns an estimated $100 a month, he said.

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