German parliament agrees to six jets for Afghanistan

9th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

9 March 2007, Berlin (dpa) - The German parliament Friday approved the deployment of six Tornado reconnaissance jets to assist NATO-led forces fighting the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. Under the terms of the mandate, German pilots will pass on the information to NATO commanders, but will not engage in any combat operations. Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung said he was pleased with the 405-157 vote in favour, but Left Party leader Oskar Lafontaine warned it could lead to German forces being drawn

9 March 2007

Berlin (dpa) - The German parliament Friday approved the deployment of six Tornado reconnaissance jets to assist NATO-led forces fighting the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.

   Under the terms of the mandate, German pilots will pass on the information to NATO commanders, but will not engage in any combat operations.

   Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung said he was pleased with the 405-157 vote in favour, but Left Party leader Oskar Lafontaine warned it could lead to German forces being drawn into war.

Two opponents within Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrat-Christian Social Union alliance said they would ask the nation's constitutional court to stop the deployment.

From mid-April, the planes will start surveillance operations in the south of Afghanistan where the NATO forces this week launched an offensive against the Islamist Taliban.

Germany has nearly 3,000 troops serving with the 35,000-member NATO force, mainly in mixed civil and military provisional reconstruction teams in the relatively peaceful northern part of the country.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer had requested the Tornados to fly support missions for NATO ground troops after a resurgence in attacks by remnants of the Taliban regime ousted by US forces in 2001.

Supporters of the deployment said it would enhance the security of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and help reduce civilian casualties by accurately pinpointing Taliban positions.

The vote was overshadowed by the death of a German aid worker in Sar-e-Pul province on Thursday. Afghan police on Friday arrested six people on suspicion of killing Dieter Ruebling, 65.

   Ruebling was travelling with Afghan colleagues when the team was accosted by armed men, who let the Afghans go before shooting the German, an engineer with Deutsche Welthungerhilfe, which uses the English name Agro Action.

   German Development Assistance Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul told parliament the role of aid workers in Afghanistan deserved respect and gratitude, and would continue despite Thursday's tragic event.

NATO-led ISAF launched its Operation Achilles offensive again the Taliban in the north of the heavily fought-over Helmand province on Tuesday. At its peak, the offensive will involve more than 4,500 NATO troops and 1,000 Afghan National Security Force personnel.

Working parallel to the troops commanded by NATO, there are 14,000 US-led coalition troops engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom.

The NATO push will initially focus on improving security in areas where Taliban extremists, drug traffickers and other elements are trying to destabilize the Afghan government.

The NATO operation pre-empts a similar offensive threatened by Taliban commanders who also boast a separate force of 2,000 suicide bombers standing by.

DPA

Subject: German news

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