German chancellor pays surprise visit to AfghanistanBy DPA, IANS
Saturday, December 18, 2010
KUNDUZ - German Chancellor Angela Merkel Saturday paid a surprise visit to her country’s troops in northern Afghanistan.
She remembered the dead at the German base at Kunduz with Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg and Volker Wieker, the chief of staff of the German military.
The chancellor talked with soldiers who took part in four days of fighting last month in which they drove Taliban out of the southern part of Char Darah district.
“The reason I am here is to thank you,” Merkel told the soldiers.
She stressed that the military involvement in Afghanistan was also for Germany’s security.
Opinion polls have showed that a majority of Germans do not support the Afghanistan deployment.
“Part of the population is sceptical about this mission but is nevertheless proud of you,” the chancellor said.
It was Merkel’s third visit following others in 2007 and 2009. The trip was aimed at giving her a view of the deployment there.
Shortly before Merkel’s arrival, a 21-year-old German soldier was killed in an accident Friday in Baghlan province.
A total of 45 German soldiers have died so far in Afghanistan. Eight of them have been killed in fighting so far this year.
In January, the German parliament extended the deployment of troops in Afghanistan. At present a total of around 4,700 personnel are serving there.
The German government aims to hand over security responsibility to Afghan police and soldiers in 2014.