The international community has not achieved its goals in Afghanistan, according to Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel. But the Afghanistan conference in London could set the decisive course for the future.
Germany currently has 4,500 soldiers in Afghanistan
Chancellor Angela Merkel presented her government's revised Afghan strategy to the German parliament on Wednesday, a day ahead of the international Afghanistan conference in London.
"There have been some advances and too many setbacks," Merkel told the Bundestag, just hours after holding talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. "There is no doubt that the international community has not yet reached the goal of its mission. Therefore we have to act."
She said the task of helping to "open the way to freedom and stability to Afghanistan" had lost none of its significance and relevance.
"The international community is without a doubt being put to the test," Merkel said.
The new German strategy, which requires parliamentary approval, includes up to 850 extra troops. The focus is on training their Afghan counterparts to protect the population in the north of the country. Germany is aiming for a "responsible handover" of security conditions to the Afghan forces, she said.
"In future, this task will stand in the center of our engagement," Merkel said.
In addition, the chancellor said she planned to nearly double development aid, to 430 million euros ($604 million) annually, as well as contributing to a proposed fund for reintegrating Taliban fighters who agreed to give up arms.
Decisive Afghanistan conference
Corruption is a serious problem in Afghanistan
Merkel told the parliament she had a series of expectations of the Afghan government.
"Corruption must be fought more effectively," the chancellor said. "Elections need to run according to democratic standards. Drug cultivation must be fought more intensively."
She said the London conference on Afghanistan, which begins on Thursday, would be crucial in determining whether the international community failed or succeeded.
"In London, we are talking about nothing less than setting the future course, a course that I am convinced will determine the success or failure of our mission," Merkel said.
No fixed timetable
Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told reporters before heading to London that the strategy of the past had failed.
"Those who believe that Afghanistan can be secured just via military means are dramatically wrong," Westerwelle said. "There is no guarantee that the new strategy will be a success, but we can be sure of one thing: the old strategy has failed."
Merkel said German soldiers can help prevent attacks before they occur
Merkel said she opposed setting a date for a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan.
"Especially those who would like the international community's mission to be successfully completed in the foreseeable future can not give in to the pressure for a withdrawal date," she said.
The chancellor said Germany aimed to hand over single districts in northern Afghanistan in the first half of 2011. This would enable a reduction of Bundeswehr troops by the end of 2011. Germany supported the Afghan government's efforts to take over entire responsibility for security in 2014, she said.
The opposition Social Democrats said they would only approve the changes if it was certain that German troops would pull out of Afghanistan between 2013 and 2015. The Left party, though, called for an immediate withdrawal of German forces in Afghanistan.
"If you honestly believe that terrorism can be fought with war, then you would have to wage war all over the world," said Gregor Gysi, head of the Left party's parliamentary group.
Editor: Rob Turner