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German President Visits Afghanistan After Stop in Kazakhstan

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (right) welcomes German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier to the Gulkhana-Palace in Kabul on July 13.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has made a visit to Afghanistan, meeting with President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul and visiting his country's troops at a base near the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif.

The German presidency is a mainly ceremonial position.

During his visit to Mazar-e Sharif on July 13, Steinmeier thanked soldiers for their service, but he emphasized that his government expected the Afghans to take a greater responsibility for the country's security.

German has 940 soldiers in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led coalition to advise and assist the Afghan military in its fight against the Taliban and other Islamic extremist groups. That is down from a peak of 5,000 earlier in the conflict.

Steinmeier said the Afghan government must also "lead the different [political] factions in Afghanistan toward coming closer together and finding reconciliation."

Steinmeier's visit on July 13 came after a stop in Kazakhstan, where led a German business delegation. Steinmeier praised the Central Asian country as an "anchor of stability" in the region.

After being greeted with military honors by President Nursultan Nazarbaev in the capital of Astana, he highlighted the "pleasing development of bilateral relations" between Germany and the Kazakhstan.

But the German president also emphasized to his Kazakh counterpart the need for "reliable regulations, more rule of law, and building trust."

Germany is an important customer for energy-rich Kazakhstan's oil and natural-gas exports.

Based on reporting by dpa and Khaama Press