Germany fine-tunes its stance on Afghanistan | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 22.01.2010
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Germany fine-tunes its stance on Afghanistan

The German federal government plans a series of meetings next week in advance of Thursday's international strategy talks about Afghanistan. Defense minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg says a troop increase is possible.

German ISAF soldiers in Afghanistan

There are about 4,500 German security forces currently in Afghanistan

Angela Merkel will sit down with Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and Development Minister Dirk Niebel on Monday to determine their future contributions in light of a worsening security situation and increasing pressure to withdraw from Afghanistan entirely.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, they'll be joined by Afghan President Hamid Karzai as he stops off in Berlin on his way to the international conference in London. After a joint press conference with Karzai on Wednesday afternoon, Merkel is expected to set out her government's position.

The discussions come amid calls by the opposition Social Democrats to withdraw German troops by no later than 2015. Party chief Sigmar Gabriel said on Friday that "if we step up fighting, it means more civilian deaths."

Germany may increase troops

News agency Reuters, quoting an anonymous defense official in Berlin, reported Friday that the government may seek permission from parliament to send 1,500 more troops to Afghanistan as part of President Obama's troop surge. There are some 4,500 German troops already in the country.

However, the German Defense Ministry told Reuters that there was no factual basis for such reports.

But Minister Guttenberg has hinted that a troop increase is possible.

"It can't be ruled out that we'll stay at this limit or that we'll go beyond it," Guttenberg said Friday. "We're not just talking about troops, we're also talking about training (Afghan) police and bolstering civilian aid... This isn't a debate about combat troops, it's about whether we need greater protection there. That's all being worked out just now, and this will be the basis for a figure we'll present next week."

Hopes for Afghan self-sufficiency

The January 28 international conference, which will include leaders from the United Nations, NATO and troop-contributing countries, aims to draw up a plan for shifting security responsibilities to the Afghan government.

Karzai is expected to present a strategy to offer Taliban fighters stipends and education if they give up their arms. Britain wants a timetable for transferring control of provinces and districts to the Afghan authorities. But the actual dates would probably remain a secret, for fear of encouraging militants to step up attacks once the allied forces leave.

Editor:Susan Houlton

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