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Bundeswehr

Germany to close two bases in northern Afghanistan

The German Armed Forces, the Bundeswehr, will close two bases in northern Afghanistan next year. The closures are coordinated with NATO steps to complete the handover of security responsibility to Afghan forces.

The first facility to be closed will be Observation Point North in Baghlan province and later the operations center in Kunduz, the German Defense Ministry announced on Friday in Berlin.

In 2012, the security situation in northern Afghanistan improved owing to the increased capabilities of Afghan security forces, the ministry added.

The vast majority of German soldiers in Afghanistan are stationed in the north of the country. On Wednesday, the Federal Cabinet approved a new mandate to reduce troop levels from the current 4,600 to 3,300 by February 2014.

After the United States and Britain, Germany is the third largest troop contributor in Afghanistan. The new mandate to close the bases has not yet been agreed on in the German parliament, but the first reading is scheduled for December.

Kunduz is the Bundeswehr's second largest base, and the most dangerous, in Afghanistan; about 1,100 soldiers are currently stationed there. Fifteen German soldiers have been killed in attacks and raids in Kunduz - more than in any other region of Afghanistan.

By the end of 2014, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan will end, and Afghan forces will assume full responsibility for security in the country. ISAF forces, including Bundeswehr soldiers, are likely to stay on after the end of the combat mission to help train domestic securty forces.

hc/msh (AFP, dpa)