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Von der Leyen tells German soldiers in Afghanistan: 'We're staying'

Germany's defense minister has emphasized the country's commitment to its mission in Afghanistan while visiting troops there. Berlin recently announced it was expanding the scope of the mission.

Ursula von der Leyen had a directive to impart to the media as she headed to Afghanistan on Sunday.

"The basic message must be: We're staying," she said on board the plane heading to Mazar-i-Sharif, where 1,500 NATO soldiers, most of them German, are stationed.

Watch video 26:01

Ashraf Ghani on Conflict Zone

Von der Leyen was travelling there for her traditional holiday visit with German soldiers stationed in the war-torn Central Asian country. The trip comes shortly after Germany announced it was expanding the number of troops it was deploying there, from 850 to 980, as well as extending the duration of its mission through all of 2016.

The announcement parallels the US decision to extend its military presence in Afghanistan, including maintaing its troop numbers at 9,800 for the rest of next year. NATO has made a similar commitment to maintain troop levels in the country.

Afghan security forces face increasing pressure from the Taliban, which has stepped up attacks in recent months.

blc/jlw (AFP, dpa)

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