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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Germany's Merkel Says NATO Must Succeed In Afghanistan

BERLIN (AFP)--German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization must succeed in Afghanistan to ensure that the
country does not become a base again for "terrorists" to attack the alliance's

"Afghanistan is NATO's biggest test at present," Merkel said in a speech to
parliament ahead of the alliance's 60th anniversary summit in Strasbourg,
France and the German towns of Baden-Baden and Kehl on April 3-4.

"For me our aim remains clear, against which our success will be measured,
that Afghanistan no longer poses a terrorist threat to our security, in other
words in NATO member countries. That is our aim," Merkel said.

"We should remember that Afghanistan ... was the base for the attacks of
September 11, 2001. This was possible because there was no functioning state,
and that was the reason for our engagement in Afghanistan, because it
threatened our security, the members of NATO."

Germany has about 3,500 troops in Afghanistan, one of 41 nations forming the
60,000-strong NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. The German
parliament voted last year to increase this to 4,500. The U.S. also has a
further 10,000 soldiers there not under NATO command.

Next week's summit is expected to see Barack Obama in his first visit to
Europe since becoming U.S. President in January press allies in the alliance,
Germany included, to do more in Afghanistan.

Germany's troops are based in the relatively peaceful north of Afghanistan -
14 of its soldiers have been killed there in attacks - but Merkel reiterated
that her country is pulling its weight in terms of police support and civilian
reconstruction work.

"We can be satisfied with our performance," she said.

She also welcomed Obama's moves to develop a joined-up strategy for both
Afghanistan and Pakistan, but stressed that there can be no talks with those
"not interested in reconstruction."

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