German Chancellor in Balkh for Surprise Visit
KABUL – Accompanied by her Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere, German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Afghanistan for a surprise visit after sunrise on Friday. They flew to Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of northern Balkh province, where most German troops are stationed, a government spokesman in Berlin said, without elaborating on the unannounced trip.
Before visiting Kabul for talks with President Hamid Karzai, Merkel will meet German soldiers in the northeastern city. She is expected to address a joint news conference with the Afghan president. In October last year, the German parliament accorded approval to the extension its military and aircraft reconnaissance mission — the third biggest behind the US and British campaigns — in the war-devastated country.
The chancellor was on a short visit to meet troops from her country in Mazar-i-Sharif; German military spokesman Lt. Col. Marca Schmidl told a foreign news agency. Having about 4,170 troops in the north, Germany will keep 800 soldiers in Afghanistan after 2014 when the International Security Assistance Force mission ends. Fifty-four German troops have died in Afghanistan since 2001. (PAN)