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Germany

Germany Blames Kabul Attack on al Qaeda

Germany's Defense Minister Peter Struck Wednesday accused terror network al Qaeda being behind a bombing that killed four soldiers in Kabul, Afghanistan. Despite the setback, he said Germany was committed to the mission.

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Germany said it will keep troops in Afghanistan despite hardships.

Islamic extremist group al Qaeda and remnants of the former Taliban regime are still active in Afghanistan -- and to make things worse, they are now closely cooperating with supporters of a dangerous warlord there, Defense Minister Struck said.

"It has now been confirmed that the suicide bomber was al Qaeda. It has also been confirmed that he received financial and logistical support from Gulbuddin Hekmatyar," Struck said, referring to an infamous warlord and leader of the fundamentalist Hezb-i-Islami party.

Struck also said some former Taliban were involved in the preparations for the attack. "Together, these three groups are trying to force the international peacekeepers out of Afghanistan."

Staying despite criticism

The defense minister made it clear that despite the attack, Germany would not abandon Afghanistan -- even knowing there is increased danger for its troops, and despite rising criticism back home in Germany.

Instead, he indicated that the International Stabilization Force, ISAF, might even extend its area of operations to more regions outside of the capital, Kabul.

In particular, the opposition Christian Democrats (CDU) have long claimed that the government was compromising the security of German troops by sending more and more soldiers abroad, while at the same time reducing military spending.

Now the death of the four ISAF soldiers seems to have confirmed the conservatives' worst fears. As a result, the CDU spokesman on defense, Christian Schmidt, called for Germany's powerful Leopard II battle tanks to be sent to Afghanistan.

Not an 'army of occupation'

"We have those tanks in Kosovo, where we are also operating as a peacekeeping force. In fact, those tanks are in their depot most of the time. But its a good feeling to know they are there, just in case," Schmidt said.

The German government has rejected the opposition's demands, citing the difference between the situations in Kosovo and Afghanistan.

Peter Struck

Peter Struck

"We have to, and we want to, win the confidence of the people in Afghanistan. And we won't be able to do that if we present ourselves like an army of occupation," Struck said.

Meanwhile, the German government is considering an extension of the Bundeswehr's area of operation in Afghanistan. A reconnaissance team is expected to visit the regions of Herat and Charikar in the next two weeks, to find out if, and how, German troops could protect aid organizations in those areas.

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