Germany to reassess Afghan troop levels next year
Germany, the third largest contributor to the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, on Thursday held out the possibility of sending more troops to the stalled, eight-year-old war after a review early next year, Reuters reported.
German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said any increase would depend partly on U.S. President Barack Obama's new war strategy, expected to be unveiled in the coming weeks.
Guttenberg said it would also depend on "a clear commitment" by Afghanistan, where President Hamid Karzai was sworn in on Thursday pledging to fight rampant graft and take control country of the country's security.
"Today was an interesting day in Afghanistan and we will see what will be the result of it, and we need more than just words. We need action also in Afghanistan by the Afghan government," he told reporters after talks with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates at the Pentagon.
Guttenberg said Germany would "reassess" its force levels in Afghanistan -- which he said now stand at about 4,500 troops -- based on those factors after a European-sponsored conference on Afghanistan expected at the end of January.
"Germany will certainly reassess its mandate and make decisions then after the conference," he said.
Gates said he welcomed the European initiative to hold an Afghan conference. He said that while the United States could "use all the help we can get" in Afghanistan it was premature to talk about contributions from any specific nation ahead of Obama's decision.
Opinion polls show most Germans oppose the involvement of their forces in Afghanistan, but the German government agreed on Wednesday to extend the army's mandate there by a year.
The German government has resisted pressure from the United States in previous years to divert its soldiers to more violent areas in the south of the country. Last week the defense ministry announced it would send 120 more troops to the country.