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gb/sp/dpa/AFPMay 10, 2009

Chancellor Angela Merkel assured Afghan President Hamid Karzai during talks in Berlin on Sunday that Germany will boost its efforts to provide training to police and security forces in Afghanistan.

Afghan President Karzai and Chancellor Merkel standing next to each other at their joint press conference on May 10th in Berlin
Karzai met Merkel in Berlin on SundayImage: AP

At a joint press conference after the meeting, Merkel said Germany took the issue "very seriously" and had agreed to accelerate the pace of training for both soldiers and police.

Germany has already pledged to increase the number of its troops in Afghanistan by 600, to 4,400, in the months leading up to the country's presidential election in August, in which Karzai hopes to win another term in office.

Karzai thanked Germany for its efforts to date in training Afghan security forces, although Merkel said only 10 percent of the required personnel had been trained so far. "We have a long way to go," she said.

Germans and Afghans work hand-in-hand in joint operation

The Afghan president also praised a rare and significant joint operation by German and Afghan special forces last week to capture a high-ranking Taliban commander.

"This was good work done by the German forces," Karzai told reporters in Berlin. "It shows the excellent cooperation between the Afghan and German forces."

German troops in armored vehicles regularly patrol the city and province of Kunduz
German "Dingo"armored vehicles on patrol in KunduzImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

The two leaders also discussed a controversial Shi'ite family law, under which husbands can demand sex from their wives. Karzai said the legislation had already been changed and passed on to parliament for a new vote. Merkel welcomed the move by the Afghan government and said she hoped that all the disconcerting passages had been removed.

Merkel said there was "light and shade" in Afghanistan, but praised the fact that six million children were now attending school across the country, many of them girls.

Taliban insurgents and drug production are growing concerns

Karzai, for his part, expressed his concern about the high number of civilian casualties caused by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, in its fight against Islamist Taliban insurgents.

He also said the Taliban's stronger presence in Pakistan's border regions was a growing concern. The spreading Taliban insurgency is the main reason the United States will be sending an additional 20,000 troops to Afghanistan in the coming weeks to boost the existing 58,000 ISAF troops already there.

Large pile of confiscated narcotics ready to be incinerated
Afghans burn confiscated drugs at ceremonies like this one on April 26 in which 6.5 tons went up in smokeImage: AP

Merkel agreed that everything needed to be done to stabilize the situation in Pakistan and welcomed talks between Afghanistan and its neighbor.

Karzai has recently been under fire from Western countries, which accuse him of doing too little to bolster security and fight corruption and drug cultivation.

The European Union's external relations commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, has called on the Afghan president to "advance the country, build an administrative infrastructure and take steps against corruption."