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BERLIN: Germany’s lower house of parliament yesterday voted overwhelmingly to extend the country’s military presence in Afghanistan but aimed to slash troop numbers to 3,300 by February 2014.
Members of the Bundestag voted by 435 to 111 with 39 abstentions to keep a maximum of 4,400 troops in the war-torn region until next February. The maximum level was reduced by 500.
Germany has agreed with its Nato partners to gradually pull combat forces out of the country by the end of 2014 as Afghan troops assume more responsibility for security.
But it plans to maintain a military presence from 2015 assisting Afghan forces.
“We know that our soldiers alone cannot solve the political and military conflicts in Afghanistan,” Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters after the vote.
“But without them, and without security, there is no path towards political negotiation and economic development,” added the minister.
Germany is continuing a gradual withdrawal of soldiers more than a decade after their initial deployment, from an all-time high of 5,350 a year ago.
Berlin is the third-largest contributor of troops to Nato’s International Security Assistance Force, coming behind from Britain and the United States.
The Bundestag votes on the deployment of troops for Afghanistan on an annual rolling basis.