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Defense

Germany to keep 850 soldiers in Afghanistan

Up to 850 German soldiers will remain in Afghanistan next year, despite plans to reduce the force to as little as 600. Troops will continue to help the future progress of the country and train local armed forces.

Germany plans to keep up to 850 soldiers in Afghanistan next year to help train local armed forces, a German defense ministry spokesman said on Tuesday.

A slightly larger contingent than it had previously expected, Germany had been planning to reduce the number to a force of 600 to 800 soldiers from January 2015. Some 3,200 German soldiers have been in Afghanistan as part of a NATO-led mission.

The spokesman said the number had been increased slightly, as the German military would continue to be responsible for the international mission in northern Afghanistan. The German military is often called upon to assist in the evacuation of injured soldiers with its CH-53 helicopters, as no other partner nation is able to provide this kind of aircraft.

'Credible reforms'

In the 13 years that the German military has served as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), 55 German soldiers have lost their lives, 35 of which were killed in attacks or combat.

Meanwhile, German Development Minister Gerd Müller has called on the Afghan government to reform. "Germany will continue the development cooperation after the end of the international combat operations," Müller said on Tuesday, during a visit to the capital Kabul. In return, however, he expects credible reforms from the new Afghan government, in the fight against corruption and drug production for example, and a clear commitment to democracy and human rights.

"I want to emphasize that very clearly - part of our commitment will be bound in the future progress of reforms in the country," Müller added. With annual funds of 430 million euros (538,267,550 dollars), Afghanistan currently receives more development aid from Germany that any other country in the world.

Ongoing violence

After more than a decade of combat operations in Afghanistan, NATO plans to refocus on its core mission of defending Europe and North American next year. From 2015, the Afghan army and police will therefore be mainly responsible for ensuring security in the country. Whether Afghanistan is capable of doing so in light of the ongoing violence remains in question. On Tuesday, two Afghan security forces were killed in an attack on a base of foreign soldiers in eastern Kabul. The radical Islamic Taliban confessed to the act.

ksb/es (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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