Afghanistan Mission: Germany's Steinmeier Calls for Withdrawal Plan
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's challenger in the federal election, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, says it's time to think about a timeframe for withdrawing the country's troops from Afghanistan, where the Bundeswehr has been deployed since 2002.
Chancellor candidate Frank-Walter Steinmeier of the center-left Social Democratic Party says that, if his party wins Germany's federal election, he wants to negotiate a "concrete schedule" for the withdrawal of German troops from Afghanistan. Steinmeier, who is Germany's foreign minister, told SPIEGEL that, "as chancellor I would push for us to develop plans with the new Afghan government to establish a clear perspective for the duration and end of the military engagement."
However, Steinmeier added that it would be "irresponsible" to set an absolute date for a withdrawal because it would only serve to encourage the Taliban to bide their time until then.
He also criticized Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union for saying the Bundeswehr may have to stay in Afghanistan for another five to 10 years. The CDU should cease its "questionable wrangling" over the timetable for a withdrawal, Steinmeier said. A former CDU defense minister, Volker Rühe, recently argued in a SPIEGEL interview that a withdrawal should start in two years' time.
Steinmeier also called on Jung to strengthen the deployment of Bundeswehr military police who are providing training to Afghan security forces.
German Bundeswehr troops were deployed to Afghanistan in 2002 as part of NATO's international security force. Germany currently has over 4,000 troops stationed in northern Afghanistan.
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