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Afghanistan

German ministers eyeing Afghan troop reduction

The foreign and defense ministers have floated a plan to reduce the number of German soldiers in Afghanistan from the current level of 4,760 to 3,300 by the end of February 2014. The policy is likely to pass swiftly.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière suggested in Berlin on Wednesday that the number of German forces in Afghanistan should be gradually reduced.

De Maizière said that the reduction was based "upon a justified, but not boundless, optimism" concerning progress on the ground.

Under the proposal, 3,300 soldiers from the German Bundeswehr would be stationed in Afghanistan by the end of February 2014, compared to some 4,760 currently.

The plan would have to clear the cabinet and then the lower house of parliament to come into effect, with unconfirmed reports suggesting this process would be swift. De Maizière said he expected widespread parliamentary support for the move.

Germany signals withdrawl from Afghanistan

Germany has already begun reducing the number of boots on the ground in Afghanistan; at one point as many as 5,350 Bundeswehr troops were serving in the country.

Most countries contributing troops to the international force in Afghanistan are working on similar phase-outs, with NATO planning to end all combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of 2014 - over 13 years after the operation began. Troops will remain in the country after this date, however, to help train and advise the Afghan security forces.

Germany is currently the third-largest contributor to the NATO-led ISAF mission in Afghanistan, behind the US and the UK.

msh/mz (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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