In a move to show Germany's commitment to a civilian partnership with Afghanistan after NATO combat troops fully withdraw in 2014, Germany has opened a new consulate there. The facility is in Mazar-i-Sharif.
At a ceremony in Mazar-i-Sharif on Sunday, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle promised Germany would support Afghanistan beyond the planned exit of NATO's combat troops from the country next year. Germany currently has 4,200 combat troops in Afghanistan, but Westerwelle said Germany's engagement wouldn't end there.
"We won't leave Afghanistan in the lurch," he said.
To that end, Westerwelle officially opened Germany's first consulate in Afghanistan outside the capital, Kabul. The facility in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, near where many German troops are stationed, will soon employ around a dozen German diplomats. As a precaution against possible attacks from extremists, the building will have high security measures.
In addition to the consulate, Westerwelle attended a ceremony opening a civilian airport in Mazar-i-Sharif. German funding provided around 50 million euros ($65 million) for the project.
Following the withdrawal of German troops taking part in NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission, Germany has plans to provide up to 580 million euros per year for further development in Afghanistan.
After all combat troops have left, between 600 and 800 German troops will stay behind but only serve in a supporting role for Afghan security forces.
"[After the withdrawal] Germany will maintain its broad civil engagement and will continue to train Afghan security forces," Westerwelle said.
Later on, Westerwelle is scheduled to meet with troops stationed at the nearby Marmal Bundeswehr base.
mz/msh (dpa, AP, AFP)