According to the document, which the opposition Green and Left parties said didn't go far enough, Germany would reduce its contingent of 5,350 soldiers to 4,900 beginning in February. Then, by 2013 the number would reduced by 500 more to 4,400.
The letter said that the state of training of Afghan soldiers as well as the "current and expected security situation" were the reasons for the drawdown.
The letter reiterated previous plans to pull out of Afghanistan completely by 2014, although it is unclear whether that goal will be met. By then, Afghan authorities are supposed to completely take over internal security responsibilities.
Defence Minister Thomas De Maizière recently warned against a complete withdrawal that is too hasty, but a Defence Ministry spokesman said the plan put forward to the Bundestag was “militarily justifiable” and politically feasible.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the centre-left Social Democrats' leader in parliament said the decision was “another important milestone on the way to handing over responsibility to Afghan security forces.”
But the Greens' defence policy spokesman Omid Nouripour said the decision was “disappointing news” because the government could have decided on a more aggressive reduction.”
The socialist Left party, the only party in parliament opposed to Germany's participation in the NATO mission in Afghanistan, complained that Germany was not really changing its policies and said that Afghans continue to view foreign troops there as occupiers.
A conference is planned for early December in Bonn where officials from around the world will meet to discuss the future of Afghanistan.