Chancellor Angela Merkel says Germany will try to start handing over some responsibility in Afghanistan to local authorities in 2011 but will keep its 4,500 soldiers there as long as necessary.
Merkel on Thursday again endorsed the highly unpopular military mission, calling it "indispensable" for the security of Germany, Europe, and its partners worldwide.
In a speech before parliament she said an immediate retreat of German troops from Afghanistan would increase the danger that terrorist groups get nuclear materials.
In recent polls almost two of three Germans said they want their troops to come home from Afghanistan. The deaths of seven German soldiers there in April have heated up the debate.