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No Rigid Deadlines For German Soldiers’ Stay In Afghanistan Says Minister

BERLIN, Sept 29 (Reuters) – Germany’s defence minister signalled on Tuesday that she was open to delaying the withdrawal of German soldiers from Afghanistan beyond next year after the Taliban’s surprise seizure of the northern city of Kunduz on Monday.

The fall of Kunduz, the first time the militants had taken a provincial capital in 14 years, has raised questions about how ready Afghan forces are to tackle the Islamist insurgency alone.

“It is important that we carefully examine the current situation and that we make a decision on the basis of the analysis and not according to rigid timelines but based on the current situation,” Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen told reporters.

Although NATO has withdrawn almost all of its combat troops, it still has soldiers stationed there to train local forces. Up to about 850 German troops are in Afghanistan on this mission.

Von der Leyen said the situation in Kunduz was worrying and the experiences of the last few days had to feed into NATO’s decision about Afghanistan, due in the autumn.

NATO had planned to withdraw all forces by the end of next year.

German forces used to be based in Kunduz and remain stationed in the north of the country.

(Writing by Madeline Chambers; editing by David Stamp)

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