Nato end date ‘plays into hands’ of Taliban

German Defence Minister Karl Theodor zu Guttenbergduring with German troops in a flight from camp in Mazar-i-Sharif to Kunduz.

From James Blitz and Frederick Studemann, the Financial Times: Germany’s defence minister insisted on Monday that Nato must resist setting an end date for the international mission in Afghanistan, despite commitments by Canada, the Netherlands and Poland to withdraw forces within the next two years.

However, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, the 38-year-old Bavarian who is one of the most popular figures in German politics, also warned that Nato’s counterinsurgency strategy must start showing clear success if the German parliament is to renew the Afghan mission next February.

In an interview with the Financial Times in London, Mr zu Guttenberg conceded that Nato is set to face a “tough summer” in Afghanistan with a risk of increased attacks by the Taliban.

But he said that setting an end date for the mission would play into the hands of the insurgency and that it was far better for the alliance to focus on handing over some provinces and districts to the Afghan National Security Forces in 2011. “The least helpful thing for us – both domestically and as an alliance – is to set an end date for departure,” he said. “That plays into the hands of those who wait for such a date. Instead, it is far better to focus on a starting date, when a process of handover of security to the Afghans can begin.” (photo: Reuters)

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