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No German troop withdrawal after the Afghan elections

Germany's Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung says that Bundeswehr peacekeeping troops are expected to remain for another five to 10 years in Afghanistan after the polls.

Soldiers in the Afghan desert

Germany has 4,050 peacekeepers serving with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan

The defense minister said that Germany would review the situation on the ground following the Afghan presidential elections on August 20 and after a possible runoff vote, scheduled in September or October. He said he expected troop strengths to remain the same in Kunduz in the north of the country.

Jung told the public broadcaster hr-info radio that the Taliban's aim was to disrupt the elections. Maintaining security for the 6,600 polling stations required "great effort", he said.

The Christian Democrat politician said the goal was to assure that Afghan police and military forces could keep the country secure. Jung said that the training of the Afghan army was making good progress, but that police still needed more assistance.

"We already have 4,500 soldiers there plus 300 manning the AWACS (air reconnaissance). We provide 200 million euros (283 million dollars) every year for Afghanistan, which amounts to 1.2 billion euros since 2002."

The commander of the civilian-military reconstruction team (PRT), Colonel Georg Klein said in an interview with German news agency dpa that patrols had been stepped up, adding that German troops will remain deployed until after the election.

In July, German troops embarked on their largest military offensive since World War II in Kunduz and have been given new rules of engagement that allow soldiers to attack the Taliban.

Taliban leaders have called for a boycott of the election in the province and have vowed to disrupt the polls.

In an interview with the German news magazine Der Spiegel, former German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe (CDU) strongly criticized the current NATO strategy.

"This operation is a complete disaster - for NATO, Germany and for the soldiers who are killed in Hindukusch", said Ruehe.

"We should really increase our efforts there over the next two years and then prepare to pull back our forces. The Americans will do exactly the same, because US President Barack Obama wants to get re-elected. But, in Germany, even during the election campaign, there is no serious debate on the matter."

The current UN mandate for the NATO-led ISAF mission expires in September 2009.


Editor: Rick Demarest

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