Germany wants Afghan withdrawal from 2011: FM

BERLIN: Germany wants to start bringing its soldiers home from Afghanistan in 2011, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Tuesday ahead of an international conference in London.

"In the next four years we want to create the conditions to enable our military presence to be wound down gradually. We want to begin this year, step by step, with the handover of security responsibilities," Westerwelle said.

"In 2011 we want to begin reducing our own contingent, and by 2014 we want to have handed over responsibility for security to Afghanistan," said Westerwelle, who will represent Germany at Thursday's talks.

He noted, however, that the plans did not include setting a fixed date for the complete withdrawal of Germany's troops in the country, currently numbering 4,300 and based mostly in the north.

Chancellor Angela Merkel announced earlier that Germany planned to send 500 more soldiers, and to have 350 reservists on stand-by, as well as boost its training of Afghan security forces and increase development aid.

German troops currently form the third-largest contingent in the 110,000-strong international force behind the United States and Britain, with the upper limit capped by parliament at 4,500 soldiers.

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