Afghan president praises German military
Excellent cooperation between Germany and Afghanistan led to the capture of the alleged insurgent leader Abdul Razeq, said Afghan President Hamid Karzai.Berlin – Afghan President Hamid Karzai praised on Sunday a rare and significant operation by German and Afghan special forces last week to capture a Taliban commander, after talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
"This was good work done by the German forces," Karzai told reporters in Berlin.
"It shows the excellent cooperation between the Afghan forces and the German forces," he said. "Germany and Afghanistan will continue to engage in such activity."
The operation saw German special forces capture last Thursday the alleged insurgent leader Abdul Razeq, blamed for a string of attacks in northern Afghanistan where Germany's 3,800 troops under NATO command are based.
Some of Germany's NATO allies in Afghanistan are hoping the operation is the start of a more proactive approach after criticism that Berlin was too focused on reconstruction and training, and that it avoided taking on the Taliban.
Germany has the third largest contingent of soldiers in the 58,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan behind the United States and Britain, based in the relatively peaceful north.
Until now the focus of the mission, which is highly unpopular in Germany, has been on rebuilding the country's ravaged infrastructure and on training the Afghan police and army – something which Merkel said Sunday would be widened.
In other areas of the country, particularly the south and the east, troops from the US, Britain, Canada and elsewhere have been engaged in fighting a tenacious Taliban insurgency.
German troops, who have lost 32 of their comrades since 2002, bitterly report that US GIs have taken to reinterpreting the mission's acronym to "I Saw Americans Fighting".
By contrast, almost 700 US troops have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001, according to a tally by icasualties.org, which tracks the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But analysts said pressure from allies and an increase in attacks on German troops is prompting it to flex its muscles more just as its contingent grows to 4,400 ahead of Afghanistan's presidential election in August.
"The previous tactic (of the Taliban) was hit and run, now we're facing something else," said Wolfgang Schneiderhan, German army chief of staff.
Merkel also said her talks with Karzai were dominated by the current situation in north-west Pakistan, where the Pakistani military is engaged in a massive operation against Taliban and extremist fighters.
The offensive involving thousands of troops, helicopter gunships and jet fighters began last month after the hardline Taliban advanced to within 100 kilometres (60 miles) of the capital Islamabad, prompting alarm in Washington.
More than 100,000 civilians fled on Sunday. Up to 500,000 are believed to have fled or are preparing to leave their homes Swat and nearby Lower Dir and Buner districts, the UN refugee agency has said.
"Everything must be done in order to stabilise conditions in Pakistan, because the future of Afghanistan depends to a large extent on what happens in the border region," Merkel said.
"Personally I am very happy that there have now been intensive talks between Afghanistan and Pakistan, even if we are still a long way from solving all problems," Merkel said.
Before coming to the German capital Karzai had been in Washington where he held three-way talks with US President Barack Obama and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.
AFP / Expatica