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Merkel defends involvement in Afghanistan

Article published on the 2009-09-08 Latest update 2009-09-08 16:52 TU

An election campaign poster of German Chancellor Angela Merkel(Photo: Reuters)

An election campaign poster of German Chancellor Angela Merkel
(Photo: Reuters)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed parliament on Tuesday to defend Germany’s role in the Afghan war. She said she had “deep regret” for civilians killed in an air strike on Friday, but justified the country’s involvement by explaining that the Taliban and al-Qaeda had Germany “in their sights”.

“Merkel was basically in the dock, defending Germany’s military presence in Afghanistan, insisting that it was necessary,” correspondent Kate Connolly told RFI. “She made reference to the terror attacks on London, Madrid and the United States, saying that Germany was also in the firing line,” she added.

The Nato air strike on Friday killed 125 people and at least two dozen civilians, and forced Merkel to defend her country’s involvement in Afghanistan.

She vowed to ensure that there will be full inquiry into the incident, which was described by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner as a “big mistake”.

“The political parties across the board, in general, are supportive of Germany’s presence in Afghanistan,” said Connolly. “Now as it turns into more of a combative situation, it’s been very difficult to convince people that this is the right thing to do,” she added.

Merkel has not set a date for a German withdrawal, but has announced plans for a German-British-Franco proposal for a conference later this year to pressure President Hamid Karzai into taking on more responsibilities.

She faces a general election on 27th September.

“We’ve got a split nation here. Its thrust this issue to the top of the election agenda – an election campaign that was until now fairly lacklustre,” said Connolly. “Now Afghanistan has certainly gone to the top of the election agenda,” she added.

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