German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen visited German troops in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif on December 6, a trip that comes after Berlin’s recent decision to enlarge its military deployment in the war-torn country.
“The basic message must be: We’re staying,” the minister told reporters before her flight landed in Mazar-e Sharif, where 1,500 troops from 21 NATO countries are stationed, most of them German.
Germany is to increase its personnel in Afghanistan from 850 to 980 and extend its training missions for Afghan soldiers through 2016.
Last week, NATO announced that its troop levels in Afghanistan will remain largely unchanged through next year, despite earlier plans to reduce it.
Washington said in October the United States will extend its military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2016. Originally, all but a small embassy-based force were due to leave by the end of 2016.
Insurgency has increased across Afghanistan since NATO ended its combat mission there in December 2014.
The German military had up to 5,350 soldiers in Afghanistan as part of the 13-year combat mission. (rferl)