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Holbrooke pressures Berlin on Afghanistan

The Local · 6 Jan 2010, 17:51

Published: 06 Jan 2010 10:51 GMT+01:00
Updated: 06 Jan 2010 17:51 GMT+01:00

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Holbrooke, who is the US special envoy to Afghanistan and former ambassador to Germany, told weekly newspaper Die Zeit the United States and its allies had to ensure their military engagement was successful in Afghanistan.

"This is in Germany's interest as much as ours," he said, emphasising that America was determined not to let Afghanistan become a breeding ground for terrorism again. "But will the Germans honour this common interest?"

Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg vowed on Wednesday Germany would decide by the end of the month whether to send more troops to Afghanistan, but he also warned the eventual outcome was likely to disappoint the United States.

Guttenberg told the Leipziger Volkszeitung daily that Germany would use the international conference on Afghanistan, due to be held in London on January 28, as the time and place to announce its plans for the war-torn country’s future.

However, he stressed Germany’s recommendations to allies would consist of more than just a troop commitment, and foreshadowed a smaller troop boost than the US was hoping for.

“I am not one to submit to peer pressure,” he said. I also don’t need direction from the USA to form my opinion.”

He described the widely-touted figure of 2,500 extra German troops as “not realistic.”

Germany now has about 4,500 combat troops stationed in Afghanistan and is under considerable pressure from the US and other NATO allies to lift that figure substantially.

US President Barack Obama has pledged to send an extra 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, and wants the other NATO countries to share more of the burden in tackling the Taliban insurgency, which shows no sign of abating.

With more than 70,000 troops already in the country, the US leads the western forces in their fight against the Taliban.

Guttenberg also emphasised that Germany’s position remained skewed towards putting greater effort into reconstruction and training Afghan police and army troops to eventually take over the security of the country.

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“Our policy states: A secure future for Afghanistan is not to be achieved by military means alone. The insulated call for more combat troops does not fit with Germany’s engagement so far,” he told the paper. “Of course our troops are fighting as well. But we favour more and better training of (Afghan) security forces.”

Also on Wednesday, the Rheinische Post daily reported that Chancellor Angela Merkel had set up a special cabinet committee to devise a coherent position to take to London.

The committee would include Merkel, Guttenberg, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Development Minister Dirk Niebel, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière and Merkel’s chief of staff, Ronald Pofalla.

Senior government figures have sent mixed messages lately, with Westerwelle expressing clear scepticism about any troop boost and even threatening to boycott the London conference if it focussed solely on troop numbers without considering other options such as civilian reconstruction and political development.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

17:47 January 6, 2010 by Henckel
Pull the US, Bundeswehr and other NATO troops out of Afghanistan!!! The NATO strategy is so badly flwed, and the Afghans such resilient enemies, that even Alexander the Great had to buy them off.
18:52 January 6, 2010 by Frenemy
I say glass the damn place!!
20:52 January 6, 2010 by Thames
If the US wants more troops in Afganistan they should start by pulling out the troops they have sitting around in Germany and send them.
22:27 January 6, 2010 by Fredfeldman
Holbrooke has a point. We're all in this together, like it or not and its time for Gemany to grow up and assume its share of the responsibility of keeping the world safer.
22:45 January 6, 2010 by pinnacle
send the army in or get out. germany needs practice (on the job) to keep the world peace.
03:00 January 7, 2010 by bernie1927
@Thames: You have the right idea. Why are American troops sitting on their butts in Germany and in God knows how many other countries? The Russians tried to defeat the terrorists, oh, excuse me, we did call them freedom fighters at the time - and didn't manage it with three times as many troops. Why not pull up stakes, and concentrate on making sure that they don't come here? That place isn't worth the loss of one more of our soldiers or German soldiers either.

@Frenemy, my good old friend, I hope you are joshing. Why would you want to punish the poor innocents who want to get rid of the crazies, probably more than you.
11:21 January 7, 2010 by michael4096
Following unacceptable losses and little home support, the russians installed a corrupt puppet government and headless military to run Afganistan - then left. Among many disasters that resulted from the russian decision, one particular army group thought cool to pick up teenage girls off the street for gang rape. A local leader from a religious school then took matters into his own hands and together with a number of his students punished the army group by, among other things, hanging the commander from a tank gun. This put them at odds with the rest of the army, of course, and all they could do was fight back.

The cleric was mullah Omar and his students were called the taliban. They eventually took control of the country and one result was 9/11.

Corrupt puppet government - tick. Poor army - tick. Leaving a mess - tick. taliban 2.0, here we come.
16:23 January 7, 2010 by Frenemy
@bernie: I don't wanna "punish" (read "collaterally damage") anyone...and not only because we don't have an H-bomb big enough, or because fallout blow-back can be a bitch ;-)
19:40 January 11, 2010 by Major B
@ Thames and Michael4096. What you guys talking about, pull the U.S. troops out of Germany? The U.S. has done that!!

Pinnacle and Fredfeldman are right -- we're all in this together. With a population of 80m and only 4200 troops in Afghanistan, you mean to tell me the The FRG can't put in a measley 2000 more troops. And don't tell me about the small size of the Bundeswehr, there is large enough reserve strength.

Frenemy, my man, know you're joking about the H-Bomb, aren't you? :)
22:29 January 11, 2010 by Frenemy
@major B: Of course dude!! What I actually meant was neutron bomb ;-) (we should try to preserve the infrastructure a little bit....) lol (seriously? of course I'm just being sardonic)
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