German minister warns against Afghanistan 'end-date'

29th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Setting an end-date for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan would play into the hands of insurgents, Germany's defence minister said Tuesday, warning of a "tough summer."

"The least helpful thing for us -- both domestically and as an alliance -- is to set an end-date for departure," Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg told the Financial Times in an interview.

"That plays into the hands of those who wait for such a date. Instead, it is far better to focus on a starting date, when a process of handover of security to the Afghans can begin."

However zu Guttenberg also warned that the German government would be looking for positive results from the nine-year-old mission by the end of this year.

NATO member Germany is the third-biggest contributor of troops to Afghanistan after the United States and Britain, with 4,400 soldiers stationed in the relatively peaceful but increasingly restive north of the country.

Zu Guttenberg's comments on a visit to London came after Prime Minister David Cameron said last week that he wanted Britain's 9,500 troops home from Afghanistan within five years.

Other countries making up the 46-country, 140,000-strong alliance led by the US, including Canada, the Netherlands and Poland have said they want their troops to come home in the next two years.

Zu Guttenberg also warned of a "tough summer" fighting the Taliban, with 100 foreign troops killed in June according to a tally by the website, the deadliest month in nine years of conflict.

The mission is opposed by a majority of German voters, polls have shown.

© 2010 AFP

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