14 Dec 2011 By ALBRECHT MÜLLER DefenseNews
BONN - The German Cabinet decided Dec. 14 to extend the Bundeswehr's mission in Afghanistan by one more year, until Jan. 31, 2013, but also reduced the maximum number of troops to be deployed from 5,350 to 4,900 soldiers. The decision still has to pass the parliament.
The reduction is partly achieved by scrapping the flexible force reserve. However, the remaining 4,900 will also include German personnel of the Airborne Warning and Control System reconnaissance aircraft operated by NATO over Afghanistan. Before the end of this mandate's period, the government wants to further cut troop numbers to 4,400.
One day earlier, the control of the first of two German Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) in the northern part of Afghanistan was handed over to a civil official. The Defense Ministry is no longer responsible for the PRT Feyzabad; instead, a diplomat of the country's foreign office in Berlin is in charge.
"This forms part of the changing nature of international commitments in Afghanistan," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a press statement. "They are increasingly taking on a civilian face, as is the case with the incremental transfer of responsibility for security to Afghan authorities and the reduction in international troop numbers."
However, German combat troops might stay in Afghanistan after the planned drawback in 2014. Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière confirmed this in a joint interview together with the foreign minister about two weeks ago. In the newspaper Bild am Sonntag, he mentioned the possibility that German troops would remain in the country to help train local forces.