The commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan has traveled to Berlin to convince German leaders of NATO's new "partnering" strategy adopted in the fight against the Taliban insurgency.
US General Stanley McChrystal, left, was in town to sell the new strategy
Following talks with German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg and with members of the parliamentary defense committee, US General Stanley McChrystal said stronger participation by Afghan forces was crucial to create lasting security for the war-torn country.
"Ultimately I believe that security for our forces and for Afghanistan come from the people of Afghanistan," McChrystal said. "So our ability to protect them and to partner with them and their forces is really the best way ahead for our entire strategy. And it's critical."
McChrystal praised German troops for their work in the north of Afghanistan, adding that the Bundeswehr deployment to the troubled country had met with "great success."
He said Germany "remains a very important partner for our work in Afghanistan," and that 2010 would be a "critical year" in efforts to stabilize the country.
International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Afghan troops increasingly carry out joint operations - a strategy that is viewed with skepticism in Germany after four German soldiers were killed in such an operation last week.
The new strategy is now also forcing German troops to leave their bases in northern Afghanistan and, together with Afghan forces, fight the Taliban insurgency in rural regions.
Germany's troop presence in Afghanistan is to continue
Defense Minister Guttenberg said such sacrifices would have to be made if ISAF was to pull out by 2012.
"The new strategy is as dangerous and risky as the entire Afghanistan mission," he said. "Yet there's no denying that the concept of partnering has the potential to create the type of trust and collaboration between the Afghan forces and the population at large that is the basis for a withdrawal."
Guttenberg also confirmed that Germany would continue operating in a position of leadership in Afghanistan, adding that Berlin remained committed to the mission despite dwindling public support at home.
"We want to continue with our responsibility of leading as we have been doing," he said, adding that everything would be done "to guarantee the best possible protection and the best possible equipment" for German troops.
Earlier in the day, Guttenberg and McChrystal laid wreaths at a German armed forces memorial at the Defense Ministry in memory of the four Bundeswehr soldiers killed in Afghanistan last week. 43 German soldiers have died so far during the Afghanistan mission.
With over 4,000 troops, Germany has the third largest military contingent in Afghanistan behind the United States and Great Britain.
Editor: Susan Houlton