Germany pledges post-withdrawal cash for Afghanistan

Berlin, 16 May 2012 (MIA) - Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Hamid Karzai hailed Wednesday a "milestone" in their relations as Germany pledged EUR150 million ($190 million) a year after international forces withdraw from Afghanistan, AFP reports.

Signing an agreement that secures German cash for security training in Afghanistan after the 2014 withdrawal date, Merkel said: "This shows we are committed to Afghanistan in the long term."

The money demonstrates that Germany's engagement in Afghanistan is "not just words," Merkel added. "Afghanistan's fate is close to our heart."

Karzai said: "We hope it will help us to train security forces and to have a better and stronger Afghanistan."

The deal follows an accord inked earlier this month between Karzai and US President Barack Obama that allowed for the possibility of American forces staying behind to train Afghan forces and pursue Al-Qaeda after NATO troops leave in 2014.

However, the Strategic Partnership Agreement signed by Obama and Karzai did not commit the United States to any specific troop levels or funding, leaving such decisions up to the US Congress.

Earlier Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Canberra would provide US$100 million annually for three years from 2015 to assist local forces with the transition.

Germany is the third biggest supplier of troops to the 130,000-strong NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) after the United States and Britain.

It has a maximum of 4,900 soldiers in Afghanistan but another 500 are set to be withdrawn by 2013 before a complete pullout.

Karzai was on his way to the May 20-21 NATO summit in Chicago, which will discuss Afghanistan's future after troops depart in 2014 leaving Kabul's security forces in charge.

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