KABUL - Germany will continue to assist Afghanistan beyond the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country by 2014, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle promised on Thursday. The pullout of international troops does not mean that the global fraternity will abandon Afghanistan, Westerwelle told a joint news conference with his Afghan counterpart Dr. Zalmay Rasul in Kabul.
Germany would stand by Afghans and step up civilian assistance to the country, he said, while supporting the security transition process. The project would enable Afghans to shoulder security responsibility for their country, he added.
"We don't want to retreat with the withdrawal of NATO-led forces from Afghanistan. The security transfer is taking place with the coordination of the Afghan government," the minister said.
Afghan forces' capacity was being built in accordance with foreign troop pullout levels, explained Westerwelle, who also met President Hamid Karzai during his unannounced visit to Kabul.
Announced by Karzai on March 22, the transition project is expected to be completed throughout the country by the end of 2014.
Security responsibility for central Bamiyan, Mehtarlam, Lashkargah and Herat City has already been also transferred to Afghan forces. A similar switch is due in Kabul, Panjsher and Mazar-i-Sharif over the next few days.
For his part, Dr. Rasul said he had discussed a number of issues of bilateral interest with the minister. Preparations for second Bonn conference on Afghanistan, scheduled to be hosted by Germany in December, also figured at the meeting.
"Afghan-German friendship has a long history. Our ties have been further cemented by the war on terror over the past one decade," remarked Rasul, who acknowledged Berlin's contribution to Afghanistan's reconstruction.
Germany has 5,300 troops in Afghanistan within the International Security Assistance Force framework. Since 2001, 53 of them have been killed. Since the ouster of the Taliban regime, it has extended $1,700 million in aid to the impoverished country.