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German Defense Minister Pays Surprise Visit To Troops In Afghanistan

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said that Germany remains committed to the peace process in Afghanistan. (file photo)

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has paid an unannounced visit to Afghanistan in a show of the country's commitment to the peace process.

Kramp-Karrenbauer landed on February 26 in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif in Balkh Province, where most German troops in the country are deployed.

Germany is ready to "continue supporting Afghanistan during its peace process," the German Defense Ministry quoted Kramp-Karrenbauer as saying in a statement.

“Afghanistan urgently needs a settlement between the opposing groups of its society,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said, adding that Berlin’s goal remained an orderly withdrawal of troops.

Earlier this week, the German government prepared the way for the country’s troops in Afghanistan -- the second-largest contingent in a NATO force -- to stay in place until next year if needed.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet on February 24 approved a new draft mandate that would enable German troops to stay until January 31.

The current mandate for Afghanistan expires at the end of March, while the new U.S. administration of President Joe Biden is reviewing a 2020 agreement with the Taliban that sees foreign troops withdrawing by May 1.

German troop deployments overseas require parliamentary approval, which is typically granted on a yearly basis.

NATO has just under 10,000 troops in the war-wracked country, helping to train and advise Afghan security forces.

Germany’s contingent of up to 1,300 is the second-largest in the Resolute Support mission after the United States.

“Our soldiers are contributing an important part together with our allies especially in the north," Kramp-Karrenbauer said.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters