Germany`s Merkel visits Afghanistan

Germany currently has nearly 4,700 troops serving in the ISAF.

Updated: Dec 18, 2010, 16:45 PM IST

Berlin: German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday made an unannounced visit to northern Afghanistan, where her country`s troops serve in the NATO-led force.

The government in Berlin said that Merkel, her defence minister and the military`s chief of staff arrived early Saturday in Kunduz, where Germany has a base. It declined to give further details of the visit.

Germany currently has nearly 4,700 troops serving in the International Security Assistance Force. It plans to start gradually withdrawing in late 2011.

Merkel`s visit comes ahead of a parliamentary vote expected in January on renewing authorisation for the country`s military mission in Afghanistan. The current parliamentary mandate allows for a maximum deployment of 5,350 German soldiers.

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Thursday that Germany is defending its own security in Afghanistan — "that is why this mission is right, but it is also right that it cannot go on forever."

The German military said a 21-year-old soldier died on Friday night after being found with a gunshot wound at a military post in Pul-e-Khumri. It said the wound appeared to have resulted from an accident, but the matter was being investigated.

Bureau Report