Guest contribution by Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in the Kölner Stadtanzeiger, 27 January 2010

27.01.2010 - Interview

“We need a fresh start”

Germany is in Afghanistan to support the people there as they build their country and their future. However, we are in Afghanistan first and foremost for our own security. The attacks in New York, Madrid and London demonstrated the risks of letting a country fall into the hands of terrorists. Or have we already forgotten about the Sauerland Group that also intended to kill hundreds of people here in Germany?

The situation has deteriorated

We face huge challenges. The security situation in some regions of Afghanistan has deteriorated. For many Afghans, respect for human rights is just a distant dream.

Yet we have also achieved a lot: 6.5 million girls and boys attend school now – five times as many as before the fall of the Taliban. Roads and bridges have been built, hospitals have been constructed, wells have been dug. We want the Afghans to be able to assume responsibility for their own future.

One thing is clear: A military approach won’t solve Afghanistan’s problems. We need a political solution. If we want to keep Afghanistan from slipping back into chaos and terror we need success in the fields of education, training, agriculture and employment. At the moment, this civilian development still needs military protection.

At the same time, our citizens want to know where we’re headed and our soldiers need a timeline. Before the end of this year the Afghan Government is to assume responsibility for individual regions. As soon as next year, we plan to begin gradually reducing our military presence. By 2014 responsibility for security is to be transferred entirely to Afghanistan.

If we want to withdraw, we have to do more

If we want to withdraw, we must be prepared to do more first. That is why the German Government has decided to double the resources for development projects, to send more trainers to train Afghan police officers, to support a reintegration programme for moderate Taliban and to send more soldiers to protect the civilian population and assist in building up the Afghan army. The London Conference has the potential to be a turning point. We need a fresh start. That is why the German Government has decided to change its strategy in Afghanistan.

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