German defense minister pays a surprise visit to Afghanistan | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 21.12.2011
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German defense minister pays a surprise visit to Afghanistan

Germany's defense minister has made an unannounced visit to Bundeswehr troops in Afghanistan. Thomas de Maiziere said he was "cautiously optimistic" about the security situation and the planned 2014 withdrawal.

German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere

De Maiziere met with German troops in Kunduz

German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere is in Afghanistan on an unannounced visit.

The minister arrived early Wednesday morning in the northern town of Kunduz, where he was meeting with German troops serving in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

Cautious optimism

Shortly after his arrival in Kunduz, the defense minister said he was "cautiously optimistic" that the situation in the country would allow German troops to meet their timetable for pulling out of Afghanistan, according to the dapd news agency, adding that the security situation in the region had improved over the past two years.

German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere

German troops have begun handing over responsibility for security

However, he also warned that there was a lot of work to be done before the German contingent could leave, specifically, in terms of training Afghan forces to the point that they can take full responsibility for security in the country.

The minister used his visit to thank the German troops for their difficult work, particularly at a time when they are forced to be without their families in the upcoming holiday season.

"The mission maybe politically controversial, but the accomplishment of the soldiers cannot be disputed and is not disputed," de Maiziere told the Reuters news agency.

Gradual withdrawal

Germany currently has about 5,000 Bundeswehr peacekeepers in northern Afghanistan, 1,200 of which are stationed at the base in Kunduz.

The visit comes just days after the German contingent handed over its base in Faizabad to civilian control. This is the first concrete step in a process that is to see all German and other international troops withdraw from the country by 2014.

Author: Chuck Penfold (dapd, Reuters, dpa)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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