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Europe

Afghanistan Needs More Than Military, Says German Minister

NATO and Afghan leaders debated the future of the international mission in Afghanistan on Sunday amid tensions between Washington, Kabul and European capitals.

German soldiers near Fayzabad in northern Afghanistan

World leaders agreed that more development and not just military efforts are needed in Afghanistan

"It is absolutely necessary in Afghanistan to implement the process (of security and reconstruction) even more effectively. There can be no development without security, but there can be no security without development either," German Defense Minister Franz-Josef Jung told the Munich Security Conference on Sunday, Feb. 8.

"We will not win by military means alone," he said.

Jung opened a debate with US National Security Advisor James Jones and Afghan President Hamid Karzai at a time when Western leaders are becoming increasingly critical of Karzai's regime and NATO members are struggling to raise troops to combat the Taliban.

NATO has sent some 55,000 troops to the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, almost half of them from the United States.

But the alliance is fighting an increasingly bitter battle against the resurgent Taliban, with commanders on the ground calling out for more soldiers.

US requests may vex Germany

US Vice-President Joe Biden adresses participants of the Munich Conference on Security Policy

Biden said the new US administration will expect more from its partners

US President Barack Obama has pledged to almost double the number of US troops in Afghanistan, but has called on European members to boost their efforts in the country, either by sending more men or by providing more support to the Afghan government, army and police.

"America will do more. The bad news is that America will ask more from our partners as well," US Vice-President Joe Biden told the conference on Saturday.

That call is likely to cause anxiety in Europe, where the Afghan campaign is far from popular with voters, and where some governments are reluctant to commit soldiers to the hottest combat areas, despite fierce pressure from allies such as Britain and Canada.

It will be a particularly sensitive issue in Germany, which faces federal elections in September. NATO officials say that they are keen to avoid the Afghan mission becoming an electoral issue.

Jung said that given the rapid growth of the Afghan army, "the number of troops is sufficient: what we need is more reconstruction and more effort in building up the Afghan armed forces."

Germany has decided to treble to 21 the number of training teams it sends to Afghanistan and to more than double its reconstruction aid to 170 million euros ($220 million), he said.

Pledges to work with Pakistan

At the same time, Western capitals have become increasingly vocal in their criticism of Karzai's government, which they accuse of inefficiency, corruption and stalling key reforms.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai

Karzai has been criticized by the West

In return, Karzai has demanded that NATO do more to prevent civilian casualties in his country, a call Jung echoed on Sunday.

Obama has pledged to widen US efforts in the region to take in Pakistan -- frequently portrayed as a safe haven for militants.

"We have to make an effective contribution to secure the borders together with Pakistan," Jung said.

Later on Sunday, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Makhdoom Qureshi was set to debate the future of NATO's Afghan mission with, among others, British Defense Minister John Hutton and US General David Petraeus, who scored some of the earliest successes in stabilizing Iraq.

Richard Holbrooke, Obama's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, was also due to join the debate.

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