Germany’s Afghan Pullout Allows Shift to Africa, Minister Says

Germany’s military withdrawal from Afghanistan this year opens the way to shifting resources to missions in Africa, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said.

“We have to coordinate capabilities in Europe so we have most modern deployment options for carrying out missions and offer the performance that’s expected of us, for instance in Africa at the African Union’s side,” she said during a visit to an army training area near the eastern town of Letzlingen.

Germany has almost 3,100 troops in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s force in Afghanistan, compared with 4,400 a year ago, according to the International Security Assistance Force’s website. As ISAF ends its mission this year, “capabilities are freeing up” while “the engagement on the African continent is increasing,” von der Leyen told reporters.

The comments after talks with German generals reinforce von der Leyen’s message that Germany must step up its international engagement in military missions and help Europe improve its pooled military resources. She visited German troops in Afghanistan four days after taking office on Dec. 17.

Her stance has prompted calls for restraint by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Social Democratic Party coalition partner.

“Avoiding the hasty adoption of positions and constantly seeking new room to compromise are two fundamental principles of diplomacy,” he said in an op-ed article published yesterday in the Guardian newspaper.

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