Germany to boost Afghan troops

10th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

The initiative comes after intense pressure from Washington.

Munich -- Germany signalled that it wanted to boost its troops in Afghanistan, as scores of key international players attended a major security conference in Munich on Saturday.

The annual roundtable was attended by presidents, ministers and security experts from some 50 countries. Speakers included Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

While delegates discussed global security issues, some 1,500 leftist and pacifist protesters were kept a safe distance away from the conference's venue, the luxurious Bayerischer Hof hotel. Police detained 14 people but described the protest as largely peaceful.

Much of the debate inside the hotel turned to the difficulties faced by NATO in getting member states to commit more troops to Afghanistan.

After intense pressure from Washington, Chancellor Angela Merkel's government indicated it would seek parliamentary authorization to expand its contingent with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) by 1,000 personnel, from 3,500 to 4,500.

Informed sources told DPA of the development, which was not confirmed by German Defence Minister Franz-Josef Jung.

The mission is not popular in Germany and its expansion is expected to spark a fierce debate.

Germany's main peace effort is currently concentrated in a largely peaceful area of northern Afghanistan.

NATO members have been disagreeing on whether they should be focussing on fighting the Taliban in the south or on building schools.

NATO chief de Hoop Scheffer acknowledged the difficulties facing the alliance, saying: "We can only prevail in Afghanistan if all of the allies are working together on the basis of one NATO strategy, with common goals, common benchmarks and maximum flexibility in the use of our forces."

The conference also saw Turkey's Erdogan vow to eradicate Kurdish rebels based in northern Iraq and ElBaradei warn participants about the alarming rate of nuclear material being trafficked illegally around the world.

"We still have around 150 cases per year of illicit trafficking of nuclear material. This is a scary number," the director general of the IAEA said.

The conference was due to continue on Sunday with speeches from US Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov.

DPA with Expatica

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