German defense minister visits troops in Afghanistan

BERLIN (AP) — The German defense minister arrived in Afghanistan Friday for a unannounced visit to the country’s troops there.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said that Germany is ready to “continue supporting Afghanistan during its peace process,” the defense ministry said in a written statement.

Earlier this week, the German government prepared the way for the country’s troops in Afghanistan — the second-biggest contingent in a NATO force — to stay in place until next year if needed.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet on Wednesday approved a new draft mandate that would enable German troops to stay until Jan. 31. The current mandate for Afghanistan expires at the end of March.

German troop deployments overseas require parliamentary approval, which is typically granted on an annual basis.

NATO has just under 10,000 troops in the war-ravaged country, helping to train and advise Afghan security forces. Germany’s contingent of nearly 1,100 is the second-biggest in the Resolute Support mission after the United States.

“Afghanistan urgently needs perspectives and a balance in society of the warring groups,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said. “Our soldiers are contributing an important part together with our allies especially in the north.”

The defense minister landed in Mazar-E Sharif to visit with German troops.

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