Berlin stresses commitment to NATO in Afghanistan

Merkel stresses Germany's commitment to NATO success in Afghanistan Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday that Germany is committed to making NATO's mission in Afghanistan a success, stressing the significance of Berlin's deployment in the country's north and of civilian rebuilding. A NATO summit on Tuesday and Wednesday is expected to focus on Afghanistan. Britain, Canada and others in the front line of the battle in the Taliban's southern heartland have complained that Germany, Italy, Spain and France are keeping their troops in the more peaceful north and west. Merkel predicted in her weekly video podcast that the summit in Riga, Latvia, will send "a signal of unity, because NATO wants and we also want the mission in Afghanistan to be a success." She stressed that Germany will play its part in a "joint strategy." "Today, we are already committed in the north of Afghanistan, a part of the country in which 40 percent of the population lives," Merkel said. She added that Germany combines "military force with political rebuilding and development aid," and stressed the importance of "fighting for the hearts of the people" in Afghanistan. Merkel did not explicitly mention southern Afghanistan in her message. In a speech to parliament on Wednesday, she made clear that Berlin did not plan to deploy any of its 2,900 troops to the volatile south. However, officials also have noted that the German troops' mandate allows them to go to any part of the country in an emergency.