Germany hails US 'firming up' of Afghan pullout plan
Germany on Thursday praised US President Barack Obama for "firming up" plans for withdrawing forces from Afghanistan and said Germany would be cutting its troop presence there this year.
"The prospects of a withdrawal are firming up now," Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a statement.
"Our goal is also, at the end of this year, to be able to reduce the German contingent for the first time," Westerwelle said, without citing figures.
"The United States is in line with the international strategy for Afghanistan," which calls for a gradual transfer of responsibilities to the Afghan authorities "and the use of this sort of room for manoeuvre for the withdrawal of troops," he said.
The statement came after Obama on Wednesday ordered all 33,000 US surge troops home from Afghanistan by next summer and declared the beginning of the end of the war, saying the withdrawal would begin this July.
Some 10,000 US troops will leave this year of the 99,000 who are currently there.
Germany's involvement in Afghanistan is deeply unpopular at home, with a total of 52 German soldiers killed since it began in January 2002.
It has some 5,000 soldiers deployed with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, which totals 47,000 soldiers from NATO member countries.
© 2011 AFP