BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged on Friday to support Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his new unity government after NATO combat troops withdraw from the country at the end of more than a decade of fighting Islamist insurgents.
Afghanistan’s 350,000-strong military and police forces have taken over security in most of the country, facing off against the Taliban in their first real test since the militant Islamists were ousted from power in 2001 by U.S.-led forces.
The United States and its allies intend to keep about 12,000 troops in Afghanistan for counter-terrorism and training of local personnel after combat forces formally withdraw this year.
Merkel told a joint news conference with Ghani in Berlin that Germany would also support Afghanistan in the longer term by training security forces and providing development aid.
“Germany has a responsibility, especially for security in northern Afghanistan,” Merkel said, adding that bilateral economic ties were also becoming more important.
The German parliament voted earlier on Friday to keep 850 soldiers in Afghanistan in 2015 to train local forces, making Germany one of the biggest contributors after the United States.
It also agreed to support Kabul with annual development aid worth 430 million euros ($529 million), more than any other country.
As part of the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, Germany has had up to 5,000 soldiers stationed in the country. Some 55 German soldiers have being killed in combat.
Civilian and military deaths have risen in 2014, the bloodiest year since the war against Taliban militants began.
Afghanistan is in talks with neighboring countries including China on a regional agreement on peace and security, Ghani said.
“That is all at an early stage. We are working on a detailed plan,” he added.
Last month Reuters reported exclusively that China had proposed setting up a forum to restart stalled peace talks between Afghanistan and Taliban insurgents.
Documents seen by Reuters show that China put forward a proposal for a “peace and reconciliation forum” that Afghan officials said would gather representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the Taliban command.
Editing by Erik Kirschbaum and Gareth Jones