German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has made a previously unannounced visit to Afghanistan, where he was due to meet President Hamid Karzai and German commanding officers in Kabul.
Westerwelle has not specified a date for troop withdrawal
On his arrival at the Kabul airport, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle declined to say when Germany's 5,400 troops based in northern Afghanistan would begin to come home.
"It would not be very clever to say where and in which month which troop contingent will be reduced. That would be an invitation to begin violence in that area," he said. "What matters is that we will reduce troop numbers for the first time since the mission began, with the clear aim of having no combat soldiers there in 2014," he said in a separate interview in Afghanistan with the German daily, Die Welt.
German troops are the third largest contingent in Afghanistan
Germany forms the third-largest contingent of foreign troops in Afghanistan with some 5,400 soldiers in the north under NATO command. An international conference on Afghanistan is due to take place in Bonn, Germany in December.
Westerwelle also warned that Afghanistan would continue to have problems after all foreign troops have left. "I never had any illusions about being able to create a Switzerland in central Asia," Die Welt quoted him as saying.
The German parliament approved a 12-month extension of the unpopular Afghanistan mission in January, but with the proviso for the first time that troops start coming home from the end of 2011 if security allows.
The death of German soldiers in Afghanistan has caused public outrage in Germany
Major André Wüstner, Deputy Head of the German Armed Forces Association (Bundeswehrverband), accompanied Westerwelle on his trip to Afghanistan. He addressed the conditions of the troops in Afghanistan and said that the public is growing wary of the operation. He added, while progress has been made, political mistakes made at the beginning of the ISAF troop deployment led to substantial delays.
“Now it is a matter of ending this mission quickly and responsibly and that Afghanistan has a perspective for after 2014,” Wüstner said. He also told Westerwelle, “we must make sure that Germany does not get politically involved in such poorly thought-out adventures so quickly again.”
Author: Sarah Berning (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Manasi Gopalakrishnan