Aid to continue beyond security transfer: Germany
A day ahead of the security handover from German soldiers to local forces in the northern city, Guido Westerwelle promised his country would continue to cooperate with Afghanistan beyond 2014, when the transition process will be completed.
Addressing a joint news conference with Balkh Governor Atta Mohammad Noor and Dr. Ashraf Ghani, in charge of the security handover project, Westerwelle said the German assistance would focus on promoting education, health and economy of Afghanistan.
Dr. Ghani said he was pleased to note Berlin's reiteration of its commitment to Afghanistan's long-term development. Calling Mazar-i-Sharif an important trade hub, he said Balkh should reemerge as a key centre on the Silk Route.
With international support, the security switch would pave the ground for Afghanistan's exports to Europe via Balkh, he hoped. Over the past decade, Mazar has been a peaceful city, with no major security problem, he said.
Governor Noor said the city was ready for the security transition, but he stressed the need for increasing Afghan forces' strength and capacity. He also called for meeting long-term needs of the local security personnel.
For the success of the transition process, the global fraternity should shift its focus to terrorist safe havens outside Afghanistan, Noor said. "Everyone knows where Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was killed and terrorist sanctuaries are located."
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