German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier made a surprise visit to Afghanistan where he will spend four days examining the situation. The trip was made hours after he spent time with Senator Barack Obama discussing the topic of Afghanistan. The government of President Karzai has come under increasing criticism as the Taliban grows in strength, corruption is rampant, and the military appears uncertain how to deal with the Taliban. Both Obama and his opponent, John McCain have pledged to send additional troops to the beleaguered country. The German government is concerned it will be called upon to supply more troops and the foreign minister wants to find out if additional troops are the issue or does change require rethinking who leads Afghanistan.
Steinmeier is considering dispatching more troops but first he wants assurances President Karzi will deal with corruption and bring a greater sense of stability and vigor to the fight against the Taliban. A few years ago, Steinmeier referred to Kabul as a stable city, but this time he will be forced to ride in an armored car and even wear a bullet proof vest.
German politicians are confronted by the reality their nation does not want more troops in Afghanistan. Perhaps, it is time to rethink what is happening in Afghanistan and develop a new strategy that encompasses both economic and military reform.
Germany has continually witnessed a decline in its birth rate over the last half of the 20th century and current forecasts are the current 82 million German population will decline to about 69 milion by 2006. The current birthrate is 1.43 children per woman, slightly up form 1.33 the year before, but distant from the necessary 2.1 number that ensures maintenance and growth in population. An economic problem that will arise unless there is a significant rise in population is support for the social security system which will lack people paying in during the coming decades. Uusula der Leyen, Family Minister, believes an important aspect of dealing with the demographic crisis in persuading women to have more children.
Under new legislation, the government will pay the parent who remains home with the child up to 67% of their current income with a maximum of $2,810 per month for up to a year. Another facet of the new program is tripling the number of day care centers in order to assist women who must work. Many conservatives support paying women to remain at home but object to day care centers as encouraging women not to remain with the child.
Ironically, as Germans have fewer babies, German society needs more immigrants.