The following interview with Foreign Minister Westerwelle was published in the daily newspaper Märkische Allgemeine on 17 March 2012.
Mr Westerwelle, when should the German armed forces withdraw from Afghanistan?
We will stay there no longer than desired by our international allies and the Afghan Government. We continue to hold on to the principle of “in together, out together”. What matters now is to conduct the ongoing withdrawal of the international combat troops in a responsible manner so that Afghanistan will never again become a safe haven for the world’s terrorists.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has recently called upon the NATO troops to withdraw from rural areas. What’s your take on this?
Basically, the Afghan army should be in a better position to provide security in remote rural regions. For this to happen it will be crucial to push ahead with the training of the Afghan security forces. The better we are able to do that, the faster the international forces will be able to hand over responsibility for security to the Afghans.
Even at the risk of the Taliban gaining the upper hand again?
No. Despite some setbacks, there have been many positive developments in Afghanistan. The transfer of responsibility for security is under way. Many areas have already been handed over to Afghanistan. What matters now is for the political process of domestic reconciliation to continue apace. For there is no military solution for Afghanistan, only a political one.
Reproduced with kind permission from Märkische Allgemeine.