German bishop invited to visit Afghanistan after criticizing military mission | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 11.01.2010
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German bishop invited to visit Afghanistan after criticizing military mission

With her rejection of the German deployment in Afghanistan, the head of Germany's protestant church rekindled an ongoing debate. Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has invited her to visit the troops.

Margot Kaessmann and Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg

Kaessmann and Guttenberg reach a ceasefire

Bishop Margot Kaessmann and Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg agreed during their half-hour meeting on Monday that there should be a broader public debate on the German Bundeswehr's mission in Afghanistan, as well as a strengthened civil commitment.

The Minister and the Protestant church leader said they would continue their "critical dialogue" about the Afghan deployment, possibly in the framework of the Bundeswehr's military academy or at protestant church academies.

While the issue wouldn't be solved anytime soon, Kaessmann said it was important that the church's voice was heard in the debate. Kaessmann is the Lutheran bishop of Hanover and the first woman to head the EKD - an umbrella group for 22 churches that encompass Germany's 25 million Protestants.

"Nothing is right in Afghanistan"

The high-level meeting comes as a response to critical remarks by the bishop in December, when Kaessmann said in an interview that the war in Afghanistan could not be justified.

At two New Year's church services, she told congregations in Berlin and Dresden she did not approve of the western strategy in Afghanistan, where 4,500 German military personnel are deployed with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Her comments were described as "naive," "not helpful," "unrealistic" - soldiers posted in Afghanistan were as angered by the Bishop's views as many German politicians.

The German government - the third-largest force contributor after the United States and Britain - is expected to decide whether to commit more troops to stabilizing Afghanistan at an international conference in late January on how to assist the country.

Opinion polls have repeatedly shown a majority of Germans are opposed to the Afghan deployment.

Editor: Michael Lawton

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