Merkel makes unannounced visit to Afghanistan

KUNDUZ – German Chancellor Angela Merkel traveled to northern Afghanistan on an unannounced visit, amid heavy security, according to BBC News. Merkel arrived early on Saturday in Kunduz, where Germany has a base, accompanied by Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg and military Chief of Staff Volker Wieker.

Her government will next month seek a renewed parliamentary mandate for its 4,800-strong Afghan mission. It comes amid falling public support for the deployment. Few details were provided on Merkel’s visit – her third to Afghanistan since 2007.

Speaking to troops at the Kunduz base, Merkel praised their bravery and said their mission was vital. “Until now, we only knew of stories like this from war books,” she said after listening to soldiers describing a recent four-day offensive “The reason why I’m here is to say ‘thank you.’ We know what you are doing is an extremely dangerous undertaking,” she said.

On Thursday, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle announced in parliament that Germany would start to pull out some of its troops from Afghanistan in the first half of 2011, ending its mission by 2014.

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