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Flexible time frame

July 23, 2011

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, on the second day of a visit to Afghanistan, has paid a visit to Bundeswehr troops. He said a timetable for Germany's withdrawal was not set in stone.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle visiting German Bundeswehr troops
Westerwelle was given a tour of German army facilitiesImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle was at the Bundeswehr's main base in Afghanistan, Mazar-i-Sharif, on Friday, where he was visiting German troops ahead of their planned relinquishing of security to Afghan forces.

Westerwelle also met with the governor of Balkh province, Mohammad Atta, to discuss Germany's handover of security in the region to Afghan troops and police.

A day before, the foreign minister rejected calls to set out a precise timetable for the withdrawal: "It wouldn't be a good idea to say which troops would be pulled out in which month," Westerwelle said after arriving in the capital Kabul. He argued that this would amount to an open invitation to escalate violence for those who want to prevent reconciliation.

Westerwelle added that the planned troop withdrawals offered Germany "a new perspective on our Afghan policy." Shortly after his arrival, he met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and had talks with the new commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), US General John Allen.

Key moment

Bundeswehr soldiers
German troops will begin handing over control soonImage: dapd

Apart from the handover, which is expected be completed by the end of 2014, they are expected to discuss the Afghanistan conference scheduled for December 5.

The US, which has by far the biggest foreign force in Afghanistan, plans to pull out a third of its 140,000 military personnel within the next 12 months.

The government of Germany, which has more than 5,000 Bundeswehr soldiers stationed in the north of the country, is to decide at the end of the year when it will pull out the first of its troops.

Author: Chuck Penfold, Gabriel Borrud (dpa, dapd)
Editor: Ben Knight