Germany Plans Start of Troop Withdrawal

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, 12/15/10.

From Judy Dempsey, the New York Times:   With the public increasingly opposed to the war in Afghanistan, the German Parliament voted on Friday to begin withdrawing the 4,900 soldiers serving there by the end of this year and to complete the withdrawal by 2014, the first time Germany has set a time frame for bringing troops home.

The decision means Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right coalition government is now committed to beginning the pullout this year — a demand made by the opposition Social Democrats. …

Guido Westerwelle, the foreign minister, said the decision was a turning point in the Afghan mission. “For the first time, the German government has agreed not just extending the mandate but also agreeing on the perspective for withdrawal,” he said.

Mr. Westerwelle’s insistence that the new mandate include a specific reference to a withdrawal date had led to a public disagreement between him and the defense minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg.

Mr. Guttenberg wanted no specific date, arguing that any reduction of troops should depend on conditions on the ground. Faced with public opposition to the mission, as well as three scandals inside the armed forces, Mr. Guttenberg was in a more conciliatory mood Friday. He agreed to the wording of the mandate and the date of the troop withdrawal after insisting that the words “if the security situation allows” be included.  (photo: Reuters)

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