Germany to keep troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014: minister

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Berlin, Oct 25, IRNA -- Defense Minister, Thomas de Maiziere, said here on Monday German soldiers would remain in Afghanistan beyond the 2014 date set by Berlin to transfer responsibility to Afghan forces.

Speaking at a high-profile security conference in the German capital, the minister made clear German troops would stay in the war-stricken country for a 'very long' time, 'even after 2014.'

De Maiziere did not say how many German soldiers would remain deployed in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of combat troops in 2014.

He added German troops could be used to train Afghan security forces.

The minister refused to speculate on the possibility of keeping German battle forces in Afghanistan if the Afghan government is not capable of maintaining security in its country after 2014.

Berlin hopes to begin the pullout by the end of this year and conclude the withdrawal by 2014, depending on the overall state of Afghan security.

Germany has deployed around 5,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Dozens of German soldiers have reportedly been killed and hundreds more injured in Afghanistan since the start of the western war in that country in late 2001.

Most Germans are deeply opposed to the controversial Afghan military mission.

A broad majority of Germans are sceptical on prospects for a military success in Afghanistan, according to a survey published by YouGov earlier this month.

Some 70 percent of Germans don't believe that the NATO-led military operation can be successful.

Meanwhile, some 68 percent of Germans say their country should not have participated in the 10-year-old western military mission in Afghanistan.

Only 23 percent of Germans approve the deployment of German troops in the war-ravaged country.

Islamic Republic News Agency/IRNA NewsCode: 30630698

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