Early Afghan pullout would be worse than 9/11: Merkel
Pulling out of Afghanistan too soon would be "far more disastrous" than 9/11 because of the danger of extremists getting hold of nuclear materials, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday.
"The international community went in together, and we will pull out together. If we do not then the consequences, I am convinced, would be far more disastrous that the results of the September 11, 2001 attacks," Merkel said.
"Just looking at the map makes this clear. Right next door to Afghanistan is nuclear-armed Pakistan, and we have to assume that another neighbour, Iran, is also doing everything it can to become a nuclear power," she said.
In a spirited defence of the deeply unpopular mission following the deaths of seven German soldiers this month, Merkel noted that a recent international conference had agreed that "nuclear terrorism is one of the world's biggest security dangers."
"If we fail to tackle nuclear disarmament properly, as we agreed to in Washington, and if we left Afghanistan without a plan, then the danger would increase a great deal that nuclear weapons and nuclear material could end up in the hands of extremist groups," Merkel said.
Germany has around 4,400 troops in Afghanistan, the third largest contingent after the United States and Britain. A total of 43 German soldiers have been killed there, and the mission is opposed by a large majority of German voters.
© 2010 AFP