German defence minister visits Afghanistan

German defence minister visits Afghanistan

German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere arrived in northern Afghanistan Monday, dpa reported.

His Airbus landed early Monday at the German military headquarters in Mazar-e Sharif following a direct flight from Germany.

He did not make the usual stop in Uzbekistan where until now it was normal for ministers to fly on in a Transall military transport plane equipped with anti-rocket defences.

"That is also a sign of the better security here in the north," the minister said.

He said he wanted to get a picture of how the Afghan forces are taking on more responsibility for security.

NATO combat troops are set to withdraw by the end of 2014, handing over security responsibilities to Afghan forces.

Only 3 per cent of attacks carried out by Taliban and other militants take place in areas where the German forces are present.

A suicide bomber last month killed more than 40 people at a mosque in the town of Meimane.

General Guenter Katz, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force, said Taliban attacks fell 15 per cent in the last three months compared to the same period last year.

Katz said the fighting would continue after the NATO troops withdraw. "There will still be Taliban after 2014. The Afghan security forces will still have to fight," he said.

There are currently 4,760 German soldiers serving in Afghanistan.

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