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Steinmeier wants German elite troops out of Afghanistan

DPA/The Local · 4 Oct 2008, 14:27

Published: 04 Oct 2008 14:27 GMT+02:00

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In an interview with news magazine Der Spiegel, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the hundred elite German soldiers stationed in Afghanistan since 2001 have not been deployed „a single time.”

The troops are part of the US-led “Operation Enduring Freedom” charged with fighting terrorism. The force is deeply controversial because of mounting civilian casualties in its fight against the Taliban.

The minister said he was in favour of removing the elite forces when the parliament debates in November whether to extend the mandate of Germany’s participation in “Operation Enduring Freedom.”

Instead, Steinmeier said, the “clear focus” for Berlin was to extend the number of German soldiers in Afghanistan under the NATO-led multinational International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF). On Tuesday, the German parliament, in a special session, is to debate raising German troop levels by 1,000 to 4,500 soldiers.

We can’t “constantly raise our contribution without critically assessing existing commitments,” Steinmeier told the magazine.

Steinmeier joins a growing chorus of German politician calling for a rethink of Germany's involvement in Afghanistan.

On Saturday, The Christian Social (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Party, went further, urging the chancellor to come up with an exit strategy for the German army in Afghanistan.

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The chairman of the CSU’s parliamentary group, Peter Ramsauer said that was the only way the extension of Germany’s Afghanistan mandate for another year could be justified and would get “some support” from citizens.

Ramsauer added he hoped experts weren't right in predicting that the mission in Afghanistan would last for 10 to 15 years. "It will become all the more shorter if we begin to understand that the problems in Afghanistan can never be solved militarily alone," he said.

DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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