Minister: Germany could be in Afghanistan for another 10 years
Aug 8, 2009, 11:06 GMT
Berlin - German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung said in a newspaper interview Saturday that the country's armed forces could be in Afghanistan for up to 10 more years 'until the security situation stabilizes for good.'
Jung told the Bild daily that in order to bring stability to the northern province of Kunduz, over which Germany has military responsibility as part of the NATO-led ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), 'we need at least another five to 10 years.'
In July, German troops embarked on their largest military offensive since Wolrd War II in Kunduz, and have new rules of engagement that allow soldiers to attack the Taliban.
The Afghan involvement is not popular in Germany however, with opinion polls showing a majority in favour of ending the army's increasingly combat-oriented role.
In response to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen's Friday call for more foreign troops to be sent to Afghanistan, Jung said Germany was pulling its weight, and would not deploy any more.
'We already have 4,500 soldiers there plus 300 manning the AWACS (air reconnaissance). We pay 200 million euros (283 million dollars) every year for Afghanistan, which amounts to 1.2 billion euros since 2002.'
Jung added that civil reconstruction efforts were now just as important as military capability, and said Germany had done more 'than many of our European partners in this respect.'
On Friday, Rasmussen said in an interview with the BBC that progress against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan in recent weeks had been because of greater NATO troop levels, and that yet more were required.
'Definitely the number of troops matters,' he said.
Britain is the NATO country with the second-largest troop deployment in Afghanistan after the US, Germany the third. Britain's incoming army chief said Saturday that the country could be involved in Afghanistan for 'up to 40 years.'