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Afghanistan

Germany to help Afghanistan beyond 2014

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has told his Afghan counterpart, Zalmay Rassoul, that Germany will continue to provide aid beyond NATO's 2014 withdrawal. Westerwelle made the pledge during Rassoul's visit to Berlin.

The German foreign minister told Rassoul that Germany "would not leave Afghanistan in the lurch." More than 4,000 German troops are currently stationed with the Western military alliance NATO in Afghanistan.

Westerwelle's remark coincided with a New York Times report that some 10,000 US soldiers and thousands of troops from other countries will remain beyond 2014.

'Cautiously optimistic'

German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere told a conference of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) parliamentary caucus in Berlin on Monday that he was cautiously optimistic of gradual improvements in security in Afghanistan.

"What is decisive is not what happens at the beginning of 2015," de Maizere said. The key test would be developments over the next five to eight years, he added.

De Maizere admitted that the 350,000 Afghan defense personnel were by Western standards "not well equipped." But, he said, with training over next two years, improvements in Afghan capabilities and equipment would become visible. Already, Afghan troops were covering the bulk of security operations, he added.

Niebel: aid work to continue

Development Minister Dirk Niebel of the liberal Free Democrats, the junior coalition partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel's government, told the CDU parliamentarians that German assistance in Afghanistan would be proceed intensively.

"We assume that the security situation beyond 2014 will not deteriorate significantly," Niebel said.

A former senior CDU figure, Tanja Gönner, who now heads the German GIZ aid agency said NATO's planned withdrawal was worrying civilian development workers within Afghanistan.

They wondered how they would get surgical care and even evacuation in the case of emergencies, Gönner said. Currently, they could go to a NATO field clinic.

The GIZ employs 360 German and 1,500 local Afghan helpers in Afghanistan.

ipj/pfd (dpa, dapd, Reuters)

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