German cabinet approves military aid for IS fight
The German cabinet on Tuesday approved a mandate for military assistance to back the international fight against the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria following the Paris attacks.
The package, which still requires parliamentary approval, covers Tornado reconnaissance jets, a naval frigate and up to 1,200 troops in response to a French appeal.
The engagement steps up German involvement in the campaign against IS for the first time to a more direct role.
Chancellor Angela Merkel noted that the German engagement began in September 2014 with the start of a programme to train and arm peshmerga forces from Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region fighting IS.
"We are expanding this participation in the existing alliance with a fight against the same IS but now in Syria," Merkel, who pledged Paris "any and all assistance" after the jihadist attacks that killed 130 people, told reporters.
The mandate is for one year at a cost of 134 million euros ($142 million) and can be extended in 2016.
By providing for up to 1,200 soldiers for aerial reconnaissance and support, it would be the largest Bundeswehr mission at the moment, following a drawdown in Afghanistan.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier acknowledged ahead of the cabinet vote that it could be a protracted fight.
"We are doing what is militarily necessary, what we can do best, and what we can back politically," Steinmeier told the daily Bild. "We need patience against an enemy like IS."
The head of the armed forces union, the Bundeswehrverband, Andre Wuestner, told public broadcaster ARD that he expected the fight to last "far more than 10 years" and called for a "clearly defined mission".
The parliamentary vote is set for Friday, with approval considered virtually guaranteed as Merkel's "grand coalition" government has an overwhelming majority.
Germany is to deploy by early January from the Incirlik air base in Turkey six Tornado aircraft fitted with surveillance technology that can take high-resolution photos and infrared images, even at night and in bad weather.
A German frigate will help protect the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the eastern Mediterranean, from which fighter jets are carrying out bombing runs, and the tanker aircraft could refuel them mid-air to extend their range.
The mandate will also cover the sending of up to 650 soldiers to Mali to provide some relief to France as it bears a large part of the burden in the global fight against the Islamic State jihadists.
Parliament will also be asked to approve provisions for emergency medical assistance for France in the case of "catastrophic events", and a still-to-be-determined amount of additional humanitarian aid for refugees and displaced people in Syria, Iraq and neighbouring countries.
© 2015 AFP