Merkel pledges more aid to Afghanistan

4th November 2007, Comments 0 comments

4 November 2007, Kabul (dpa) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a previously unannounced visit Saturday to Afghanistan, telling President Hamid Karzai that Berlin would do more to train the struggling Afghan police force. Merkel assured Karzai in Kabul that the training would be stepped up. She said Berlin's objective was to gradually put Afghanistan in a position to manage its own destiny. "Reconstruction has to gain more of an Afghan face," she said. And on police training, she said: "We're going to

4 November 2007

Kabul (dpa) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a previously unannounced visit Saturday to Afghanistan, telling President Hamid Karzai that Berlin would do more to train the struggling Afghan police force.

Merkel assured Karzai in Kabul that the training would be stepped up. She said Berlin's objective was to gradually put Afghanistan in a position to manage its own destiny.

"Reconstruction has to gain more of an Afghan face," she said. And on police training, she said: "We're going to see during our budget fine-tuning if we can put some more emphasis on this."

The poor performance of the police has led to charges that Berlin did not follow through on earlier promises to help build a neutral, corruption-free police in the nation.

The chancellor repeated Germany's refusal to deploy troops permanently in the embattled south. Under current agreements, German troops from the more peaceful north can only be used if the Taliban is on the verge of victory. The ousted Taliban militant regime has built up a persistent insurgency.

Merkel said Germany would stand by its allies "in dire need," but it would be a mistake not to pursue the mission in the north on its existing scale. Karzai voiced thanks for the years of aid that Berlin has provided.

The chancellor's departure Friday night from Berlin, where she usually has a busy weekend schedule, was mainly aimed at thanking the German troops and civilian aid workers.

She met German soldiers at the Kabul headquarters of ISAF, the international peacekeeping force. At a news conference, she expressly praised the work of the German civilians too.

She also toured the headquarters of German troops in Mazar-i- Sharif in the north. It was Merkel's first trip to Afghanistan as head of Germany's grand-coalition government.

At Mazar-i-Sharif she visited a memorial to German military personnel who have lost their lives in Afghanistan, standing for a few moments in silence.

Security for the chancellor - who flew back to Germany after the brief visit - was strict. In secret planning, German officials ensured that she used Kabul's dangerous roads as little as possible.

To avoid the at-risk road from the airport into the city, she flew the leg by helicopter with US helicopter gunships escorting her as outriders. Merkel wore a shrapnel-proof jacket while on board.

Twice, during Merkel's flight from the ISAF headquarters to the airport, and later as her aircraft crossed the mountains to Mazar-i-Sharif, airborne decoy systems triggered automatically.

However officials said the anti-missile devices may have been misled, since glints from the ground can resemble the flare of a rocket. No one was hurt in either incident.

Her visit to Afghanistan has been repeatedly postponed because of security warnings. The last German chancellor to visit Kabul while in office was Gerhard Schroeder in autumn 2004.

Last month, the Bundestag, the lower chamber of the German parliament, voted to extend authorization for Germany's contingent of 3,150 military personnel in Afghanistan. The German troops arrived there in 2002.

DPA

Subject: German news

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