May 10 - German Chancellor Merkel visits Afghanistan, saying the situation there has improved. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
Heading into Afghanistan. On Friday German chancellor Angela Merkel arrives in Afghanistan to attend a memorial service and offer an assessment of the situation on the ground ahead of the 2014 drawdown. Her visit comes shortly after a member of Germany's special forces was killed in Afghanistan, the first German soldier to die in the country in almost two years. The latest death brought the number of German soldiers killed in the country to 53. Nevertheless she sounded an optimistic note. (SOUNDBITE) (German) GERMAN CHANCELLOR, ANGELA MERKEL, SAYING: "The situation has very much improved since my last visit here. There are now a great number of trained Afghan soldiers and policemen in the north and at the same time the withdrawal is being worked on." Her visit comes after tensions escalated along the Afghan border with Pakistan -- and ahead of an election in Pakistan that has been mired in violence. Brigadier General Gunter Katz in Kabul, is the chief spokesman for ISAF-- NATO's International Security Assistance Force. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BRIGADIER GENERAL GUNTER KATZ, CHIEF SPOKESMAN FOR ISAF, SAYING: "After this escalation, ISAF, Pakistan and the Afghan side were discussing the situation and Afghanistan and Pakistan underlined their will to deescalate the situation." Almost 4,200 German soldiers are still serving in Afghanistan.