BERLIN (Reuters) – Pakistan should be more closely involved in solving the Afghan conflict, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a newspaper interview due to be published on Sunday.
“There will be no peace in this region unless Pakistan carries its share of responsibility,” Merkel told German weekly Welt am Sonntag.
Faced with an insurgency by indigenous Taliban allied with the Afghan militants, Pakistan wants a peaceful Afghanistan. It is viewed with deep suspicion in Kabul, however, because of its ties to the Taliban, whom Pakistan backed through the 1990s.
“For a comprehensive solution, we need a much greater involvement of Afghan authorities and the inclusion of neighboring countries, in particular Pakistan,” Merkel said.
Germany has said it is committed to boosting troop levels in Afghanistan and nearly doubling civilian aid to create the conditions to start a withdrawal from next year.
But Merkel has refused to set a date for the withdrawal of troops, saying this could encourage the Taliban to lay low for a while and then launch a big attack.
“A withdrawal without reaching our goals and a unilateral German pull out would not be a handover of responsibility but an act of irresponsibility,” she said.
Polls show that a sizeable majority of Germans favor an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan. According to NATO figures, Germany had 4,280 soldiers in Afghanistan as of December last year.
(Reporting by Sarah Marsh; editing by Michael Roddy)