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Germany

Germany Appoints Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan

Germany on Monday followed the lead of US and Britain in announcing the appointment of Bernd Mützelberg as a special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

a soldier looking out of a German army helicopter in Afghanistan

Bernd Mützelburg is tasked with liaising with the US on the two hot spots

Mützelburg, 65, who is the current German ambassador to India, will be taking leave from his embassy duties to focus on his new role.

Mützelburg's appointment will "further intensify Germany's diplomatic engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan," the foreign ministry in Berlin said in a statement.

Germany follows the lead of the US and Britain in naming a special emissary for Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, widely seen as key regions posing a serious challenge for western nations as they seek to combat global terrorism.

Pakistan's lawless tribal regions are believed to harbor Taliban and al-Qaeda rebels who fled across the border after the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

US to focus anti-terrorism efforts on Afghanistan

US President Barack Obama last month named Richard Holbrooke, the architect of the Dayton Accords, as his special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan and tasked him with implementing an integrated American strategy towards both countries.

President Obama has called Afghanistan the main front in the "war on terror" and plans to send a further 30,000 troops, doubling the US military contingent fighting a Taliban-led insurgency alongside 50,000 NATO troops.

US diplomat Richard Holbrooke addresses the media

Richard Holbrooke is the US envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan

Earlier, German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that Holbrooke was working to set up an interntional contact group for Afghanistan. It would be similar to that set up in the 1990s to handle talks on peace in former Yugoslavia, the weekly said.

Holbrooke holds talks with Karzai

Holbrooke, who is currently visiting Kabul, after a four-day trip to neighboring Pakistan, met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday evening to discuss strategies in the fight against terrorism.

Siamak Herawi, a presidential spokesman, earlier had said that coordination among the international troops in Afghanistan and civilian casualties caused during NATO's anti-Taliban operations would be discussed.

The meeting came a day after Karzai admitted that he had not spoken to Obama since the new US president assumed office last month and said that ties between his and the US administration had been strained.

Regarded once as a darling of the West, Karzai enjoyed a favoured status during the administration of former US President George W. Bush, holding twice-a-month teleconferences with Bush.

"There is tension between us and the US government on issues of civilian casualties, arrests of Afghans, nightly raids on homes and the casualties they cause," Karzai said in an interview with Sir David Frost on al-Jazeera television on Friday.

Germany under pressure to do more

Obama has called on European members -- Germany included -- to boost their efforts in Afghanistan, either by sending more men or by providing more support to the Afghan government, army and police.

"America will do more," US Vice-President Joe Biden recently told the Munich Security Conference. "The bad news is that America will ask more from our partners as well."

Currently, Germany has some 3,500 the number of troops in Afghanistan as part of a 50,000-strong NATO deployment helping the Afghan government assert its authority.The German public, however, is strongly opposed to the mission and the issue is set to be a hot topic of debate ahead of a general election next September.

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