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Talks on Afghan troop figures

February 22, 2013

Germany's defense minister has said at a NATO summit that the US was planning to keep several thousand of its troops in Afghanistan beyond the 2014 end of a combat mission. His US counterpart disputed the figures.

U.S. Army soldiers with Charlie Company, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division walk past a puddle at Command Outpost Pa'in Kalay, in Maiwand District, Kandahar Province, February 3, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Burton
Image: Reuters

German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters in Brussels on Friday that he had heard the news from his US counterpart, Leon Panetta.

"The American defense secretary announced that the United States will be in a magnitude of 8,000 to 12,000 troops involved in Afghanistan" post-2014, de Maiziere said.

Outgoing US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta responded by saying that the numbers were not yet final and that de Maiziere's statements were more closely aligned with a future total, international troop figure.

"That report is not correct," Panetta said in Brussels. "We did discuss a range of options and what we discussed was a range of options that would be directed to the NATO force overall, which includes both the US force contribution that we would make, plus what other NATO countries would contribute as well."

The German defense minister said this meant that a number of Bundeswehr troops, mainly based in the northern town of Mazar-i-Sharif, would also remain in the country in a non-combat role beyond the end of next year. However, he declined to say how many German troops would stay.

Earlier, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the post-2014 mission would be "significantly smaller in size" than the current International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which has been fighting against Taliban Islamist insurgents in Afghanistan for more than a decade.

Afraid of Revenge - Afghans Who Work for the Bundeswehr Fear for Their Lives

According to the ISAF website, 68,000 US troops and 4,318 Bundeswehr soldiers are currently stationed in Afghanistan. Both countries have announced plans to wind these numbers down.

Kunduz attack reported

Meanwhile, de Maiziere's ministry has declined to comment in detail on a raid on a suspected Taliban hideout near the northern Afghan city of Kunduz where German troops are also stationed.

Afghan police said four insurgents and two policemen died in a four-hour battle that ended in the seizure of four rapid-fire weapons. A Taliban spokesman Sabiullah Mudshahid claimed that four civilians were killed

A German special forces soldier was wounded. A German defense ministry spokesman in Berlin said his condition was not life-threatening. The spokeman said he could neither confirm nor deny whether the raid resulted in civilian casualties.

At NATO's meeting in Brussels, de Maiziere said Bundeswehr special troops had assisted Afghan special forces who led the operation.

The German commando wounded is the first soldier to have been hurt in Afghanistan in seven months.

Since Germany began NATO operations in Afghanistan, mainly in its northern Kunduz region, 52 Bundeswehr troops have lost their lives. Of these, 34 were killed in attacks or battles. The others died in incidents such as accidents.

Germany's Bundestag extended the military mandate for the Aghan mission by a further year in late January.

pfd/msh (dpa, Reuters)