McChrystal gets German backing

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The defence minister of Germany, the third biggest contributor of foreign troops in Afghanistan, offered spirited backing for US General Stanley McChrystal Wednesday as he fights to keep his job.

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg told German public television that McChrystal as the US commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan assured stability in the ranks at a critical time.

"I have extraordinary respect for General McChrystal, we work exceedingly well together," he said. "He is a guarantor of the new strategy in Afghanistan."

Zu Guttenberg said it was to be a "very tough summer" for the NATO-run International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and that the alliance needed steady leadership during a potentially exceedingly bloody period.

"That is why it is important for us to have stability within NATO structures," he said.

Zu Guttenberg declined to comment directly on whether McChrystal should be fired over disparaging remarks he made about top officials in US President Barack Obama's administration in a magazine interview.

"That is an American decision," he said. "But I respect him immensely."

Germany has about 4,400 troops serving with ISAF, the third largest contingent after the United States and Britain.

McChrystal, 57, has been summoned to the White House to explain the article in which he and senior aides criticised and mocked top officials, including commander-in-chief Obama.

Obama's spokesman Robert Gibbs on Tuesday declined to rule out that the general would be sacked over the interview.

McChrystal has won praise in Germany for focusing on better coordination between Afghan and NATO troops, a revamped counter-insurgency strategy as well as reconstruction, development and governance efforts.

© 2010 AFP

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