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German chancellor plans to visit war-stricken Afghanistan

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Berlin, Oct 15, IRNA

German Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to visit Afghanistan to get a first-hand picture on the situation in the country, however no date has been set for the trip, deputy government spokesman Thomas Steg told journalists here Monday.

"The chancellor intends to travel to Afghanistan at a due time ... but no date has been set," the Merkel spokesperson said.

The chancellor also wants to see how the cooperation between the German armed forces and aid workers functions, Steg added.

The chancellor faced harsh criticism by the opposition Greens for her failure to visit German NATO-led troops in Afghanistan Green party leader Renate Kuenast said a Merkel trip to the war-ravaged country was "overdue".

As expected, German lawmakers voted last week in favor of extending the controversial Afghan military mandate for another year.

Some 453 legislators approved renewing the mission, while 79 opposed it and 48 abstained.

The new mandate allows the deployment of up to 3,500 soldiers in Afghanistan and will primarily focus on northern Afghanistan and the Kabul region.

Meanwhile, the mandate covers also the stationing of six Tornado econnaissance fighter jets in Afghanistan.

Around 3,000 German soldiers are also presently based in northern Afghanistan as part of the NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Germany has faced intense pressure in recent months from its Nato allies, notably the US, Britain and Canada, to widen its military presence into southern Afghanistan where NATO troops are battling a revitalized Taliban insurgency.

The recent spate of kidnappings of German nationals in Afghanistan has also negatively influenced public opinion about the futile western military campaign in the war-ravaged country.

According to the latest opinion polls, most Germans oppose the NATO-led war in Afghanistan.

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