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Germany May Send More Trainers to Help Afghan Police

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By Andreas Cremer

July 24 (Bloomberg) — The German government may step up its commitment to training Afghan police forces, setting aside civilian abductions and mounting voter opposition to any deeper involvement in the country, according to coalition lawmakers.

“We need to do more and should increase our current contribution to training police forces,” Karl Lamers, deputy chairman of the defense committee in the Bundestag, or German parliament, said by phone yesterday. “As critical as security conditions may look at the moment, this is an important mission we have to fulfill,” the Christian Democrat lawmaker said.

Germany “must not at all” let up on its efforts to stabilize Afghanistan, Chancellor Angela Merkel told a news conference in Berlin today after talks with Tom Koenigs, head of the United Nations mission in the country. The two discussed co- ordinating “as closely as possible” steps to rebuild the country and defeat Taliban insurgents, Merkel said.

The meeting took place amid a heightened focus in Germany on Afghanistan after the kidnap of two German engineers. One of them was found dead with gunshot wounds to his body, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday. Merkel, responding to reported Taliban comments that the hostages would be killed unless Germany ends its military engagement, said Germany will not be blackmailed into pulling its forces out of the country.

Military `Setbacks’

“Extra support” will be needed from North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners “in the near future” to help defeat insurgent attacks, Koenigs said today. Anti-terror operations must be enhanced in and around Afghanistan, also to help stabilize the border with Pakistan where military action has recently suffered “setbacks,” he said.

“What matters to us in this difficult situation is that the different partners, especially one that’s as important and strong as Germany, will hold its course,” Koenigs said. “That matters more than ever.”

Germany’s military forces are mainly based in the relatively peaceful northern part of Afghanistan. As Germany continues to keep its forces out of Taliban strongholds in southern and eastern Afghanistan, it should assume “leading responsibility” for training security staff in the northern provinces, Rainer Arnold, defense spokesman for Merkel’s Social Democrat coalition partners, said yesterday in an interview.

“I’d like to make this unequivocally clear: We must increase our training capacities in qualitative and quantitative terms,” Arnold said. Germany should also consider providing “more than limited help” to logistical efforts in southern Afghanistan, he said.

Hostage Taken

The hardening attitude among coalition lawmakers comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity to try to secure the release of the second German hostage, presumed to have been taken captive on July 18 in Wardag province, west of the capital Kabul.

The German government, which has deployed more than 3,000 troops in Afghanistan to help combat the Taliban, said last month that its military and humanitarian involvement in the country was generating a higher threat from terrorism both in Afghanistan and at home. About 500 German civilian aid workers are also in Afghanistan.

Merkel told ARD television on July 22 that Germany’s security interests “are being defended” outside the country’s national borders, and called on lawmakers to renew troop deployments in Afghanistan, currently in the country under three separate mandates, each of which must be renewed by Oct. 12. “Reconstruction requires security,” Merkel said.

`Small Contingent’

One or two more German battalions would mark a “wonderful addition” to current security operations in Afghanistan, U.S. General Dan K. McNeill, commander of NATO’s 30,000-strong International Security Assistance Force, told ARD television yesterday.

“I can only ask the Germans to consider the wonderful effect its small contingent of troops has had in the north and how much more effective it would become through a few more German soldiers,” McNeill said.

Still, much of the German public, sensitive to military deployments after more than half a century of pacifism following the experiences of World War II, remains to be convinced.

Sixty-eight percent of Germans oppose their country’s military engagement in Afghanistan, an Emnid poll of 1,000 people for N24 television showed. No more than 29 percent of respondents back the mission, according to the survey of May 2.

Germany took the lead on training Afghan police when western governments pledged support for the U.S.’s anti-terror policies following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Italy pledged to help restore Afghanistan’s legal structures while the U.K. focused on combating the drugs trade.

In the five years since Germany’s first deployed its forces, more than 4,300 police recruits have graduated from the Kabul-based academy, co-run by Germany, while about 14,000 policemen have been trained, according to the Interior Ministry.

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Written by afghandevnews

July 25, 2007 at 4:51 am

Posted in Security

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