German defense minister urges clarity on Afghan troop deployment

MAZAR-e-SHARIF, Afghanistan — German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere called for clarity on the future of the international military deployment in Afghanistan after 2014, during a visit to troops there on Wednesday.

He said as he visited German troops in Mazar-e Sharif in northern Afghanistan that the Afghan government should sign a security deal with the United States and not wait until the presidential election in April. That would be "too late for sure," he said.

But he warned against putting too much public pressure on Afghan President Hamid Karzai. "Public pressure does not lead to a speeding-up based on my knowledge of Karzai the man and the Afghan mentality."

The US is pushing Karzai to ink the deal this year, threatening to withdraw all troops from the country and saying financial aid could be jeopardized.

Karzai has said that he wants to leave the signing of the document to his successor who will be elected in April.

It is De Maiziere's 14th visit to the country since taking up the post of defence minister in 2011.

There are currently around 3,400 German troops stationed in Afghanistan.

NATO is due to complete its combat mission in late 2014 and then keep 8,000 to 12,000 troops in the country to advise and train local military personnel. Germany is to contribute 600-800 troops to the mission, named Resolute Support.

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