Germany shuts military base in north Afghanistan
From K Mammen Mathew
Berlin, Feb 26 (PTI) Germany has closed down one of its military bases in northern Afghanistan following angry anti-Western protests over the burning of the Quran at a US airbase in Bagram.
A local commander of German contingent to International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) ordered the evacuation of its base in Taluqan after several hundred protesters demonstrated in front of the base on Friday shouting anti-US and anti-NATO slogans, a defence ministry spokesman said here.
German military''s "field camp" in Taloqan, where it has been operating the Provincial Advisery Team (PRT) assisting Afghanistan''s reconstruction, was scheduled to shut down at the end of March to begin the withdrawal of its armed forces from the war-torn nation.
In the wake of an escalation of the protests against the ISAF and the NATO, its planned closure has been brought forward, the spokesman said.
Unlike the other German bases in Afghanistan, the Taloqan camp is in the city centre and therefore difficult to defend from increasingly violent protests, he said.
Around 60 military personnel and civilian staff serving at the base were transferred to the larger and more protected German base in Kunduz, about 70 km away.
The closure of the German base in Taloqan comes amid reports that more than 25 people were killed and dozens injured in the protest demonstrations, which raged since it emerged on Tuesday that copies of the Quran had been burnt at the US airbase in Bagram, north of Kabul.
In northern Afghanistan, which is largely under the control of the German armed forces, hundreds of people demonstrated in cities such as Fayzabad, Kunduz, Mazar-e-Sharif, Pol-e-Khomri and in Baghlan after Friday''s prayers, the German regional command said.
In Pol-e-Khomri, the demonstrations turned violent after the protesters stoned the German PRT centre and tried to storm the compound, the command said in a press release.
One demonstrator was killed and three Afghan soldiers were injured in the incident, according to the press release.
In December, last year, Germany had approved a plan to wind down its 11-year-long military engagement in Afghanistan by beginning to pull out its 5,350-strong ISAF contingent in March, with the goal of reducing the troop level to 4,400 soldiers by the end of this year.
NATO leaders are expected to finalise details of the planned pull-out from Afghanistan and to agree on a time table at their summit in Chicago in May.
Meanwhile, some military strategists have called for a reassessment of the NATO''s strategy, warning that the security situation in Afghanistan is still very fragile and it can go out of control any time, as the events of the past days show.