The German defense minister has said his country would be willing to take over leadership of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Afghanistan when the current mandate expires. Defense Minister Peter Struck visited Kabul Friday to meet German troops and senior Afghan leaders.

Mr. Struck met Afghan President Hamid Karzai to discuss the president's security concerns as Afghanistan emerges from more than two decades of civil war.

The German defense minister said President Karzai repeated his desire for an international peacekeeping force to move beyond the capital, Kabul. However, Mr. Struck said he told the president he sees no possibility that the German army will expand its operations outside of Kabul.

Still, Mr. Struck said the U.N.'s International Security Assistance Force should continue operations in the Afghan capital beyond December, when it is scheduled to shut down.

Also, he does not rule out Germany taking over leadership of the peacekeeping mission from Turkey, if the mandate is extended. He says he will discuss the question with leaders of Germany's political parties.

Turkey assumed the peacekeeper command from Britain in June. Both Turkey and Germany have traditionally good relations with Afghanistan.

There are nearly 5,000 troops from 18 nations in the U.N. force. Germany fields one of the largest contingents, with 1,000 soldiers in Afghanistan.

Another 200 German troops support the mission from the Termez air field in neighboring Uzbekistan, which receives supplies for the forces in Afghanistan.