In an interview with broadcaster ZDF, the Commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan said that visits to German bases in the Kunduz and Baglan regions had proved the Bundeswehr is “conducting very impressive counterinsurgency operations.”
“I think actually there has been quite an evolution, even in the course of this year and I think it’s very important to give these German troops credit,” he said.
Earlier in the week after a meeting with Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, Petraeus had said that the country’s choice to increase troop numbers in the region to 5,000 had improved Germany’s reputation.
Over the summer files leaked by whistle-blower website Wikileaks revealed US frustration with the Bundeswehr’s performance in Afghanistan.
According to news magazine Der Spiegel which, along with US paper The New York Times and British daily The Guardian, had examined the documents, the files revealed “a German military that stumbled into the (Afghan) conflict with great naiveté.”
The Bundeswehr believed that the northern provinces where its soldiers were stationed would remain more peaceful than other parts of the country, the magazine reported.
On Wednesday Petraeus told ZDF that NATO troops have managed to wrest control from Taliban insurgents in much of Afghanistan, though.
“But I have also recognised that the Taliban still does have momentum in certain areas and freedom of movement in certain areas too,” he said.
The US plans to begin the process of withdrawing troops in July 2011, he said, adding that the speed and scale of the operation would depend on the country’s security situation.
“We need to ensure that it will be irreversible,” he said.
Since Germany joined the NATO operation in Afghanistan in 2002, 44 Bundeswehr soldiers have been killed. There are currently about 5,000 German soldiers there, serving mainly in the northern part of the country.