This is the defense minister's third trip to Afghanistan in a yearImage: DW
April 14, 2010
On an unannounced visit to Afghanistan, German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg promised to deploy heavy artillery to northern Afghanistan "as soon as possible."
Germany is to deploy heavy artillery in northern Afghanistan to back up its infantry on the ground, Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said on Wednesday.
The defense minister promised the German military two new self-propelled howitzers - heavy artillery units which can lob shells up to 40 kilometers (25 miles) with an accuracy of within 20 to 30 meters - "as soon as possible."
The Bundeswehr will also receive more Marder armoured infantry vehicles, 10 of which are already in service in Afghanistan.
"It's important to me to make it clear to the troops on the ground that the country's political elite supports them," Guttenberg said.
Some soldiers have been complaining recently that they lack the necessary firepower to deal with growing attacks from Taliban insurgents. Germany currently has no air support in Afghanistan, and must rely on the US Air Force to help its patrols if they come under attack.
Guttenberg's surprise visit to the German military base in Mazar-i-Sharif is his third trip to the country since taking office in October.
"We are relying on your power and your strength," Guttenberg told assembled soldiers.
On Easter Friday, three German soldiers were killed by Taliban insurgents in a surprise attack on a convoy. For the first time since Germany joined the ISAF mission in Afghanistan in 2002, Chancellor Angela Merkel attended a memorial for the fallen troops.
Since the attack, the government has announced an investigation into the levels of equipment and training provided to soldiers in the country.
A poll published by the magazine Stern on Wednesday showed that 62 percent of over 1,000 Germans surveyed support bringing the troops home.