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Germany pledges to support Afghanistan after troop withdrawal

The final day of the Munich Security Conference turned to Afghanistan on Sunday with Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle guaranteeing Germany's continued support as Afghanistan continues on its path towards democracy.

German soldier in Afghanistan

NATO troops will hand over more security duties this year

Opening a debate on global and regional security challenges, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told the Munich Security Conference on Sunday that 2011 should see a significant shift in focus from military to political support for Afghanistan.

The NATO-led military mission has decided to begin handing Afghan forces the lead in the battle against Taliban rebels this year with the aim of giving them full responsibility across the nation by 2014.

Westerwelle promised Germany's continued support even after 2014, when Afghanistan hopes to be able to take over its own security issues.

Guido Westerwelle

Westerwelle criticized the corruption in the Afghan administration

"Whoever wants a stable situation should not forget that are responsibility does not end in 2014," he said.

The foreign minister said he was satisfied with the development of the police and army in Afghanistan, and that he did not think that the beginning of the withdrawal of German troops at the end of this year would cause security issues.

"The training of soldiers and police officers is going quicker than expected. That's our first success," he said.

Westerwelle said the key to success in Afghanistan would be all parties working together.

"That's not easy, but reconciliation is never easy," he said.

Westerwelle also said it was important to encourage investment in the country, as that would provide more stability.

"That's why long term peace depends on all those who are currently militarily engaged in the country, also developing their economic commitments – explicitly with investments," he said.

Room for improvement

Westerwelle praised the recent opening of the new Afghan parliament and invited Afghan President Hamid Karzai to have a "good and fruitful cooperation with parliament."

Angela Merkel (left) and Hamid Karzai (right)

Karzai has promised to fight the causes of corruption

But he also criticized the administration of Afghanistan, saying that corruption and nepotism were not uncommon.

Karzai promised to fight corruption, to develop a functioning administration and improve security. He asked Western governments to help him reform the country's patchy civil service, a fertile breeding ground for corruption, and invest in its economy, noting its strategic location in Asia and its mineral wealth.

He also vowed to reconcile "as soon as possible" with moderate members of the Taliban who accept the constitution and renounce terrorism.

Karzai said he would announce the start of the transition of security responsibility from NATO to Afghan forces on March 21, his country's New Year, adding that his country was ready to take on more responsibility.

"We are determined to demonstrate Afghan leadership and ownership of the transition process," Karzai said.

NATO hopes to build up Afghan security forces to some 306,000 soldiers and police by the end of the year to begin taking over from around 140,000 foreign troops fighting across the nation.

Author: Natalia Dannenberg (AFP, dpa, AP).

Editor: Sean Sinico

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