Germany to deploy heavy hardware in Afghanistan
Germany will be sending tank-like Marder infantry fighting vehicles into Afghanistan, where it has 3,800 troops under NATO command.Berlin -- Germany plans to deploy heavy military hardware in Afghanistan for the first time to tackle rising Taliban attacks, a newspaper said on Thursday.
The army chief of staff Wolfgang Schneiderhan told a parliamentary defence commission behind closed doors this week that Germany would be sending tank-like Marder infantry fighting vehicles, the Handelsblatt daily reported.
The Marders will be used by Germany's 200-strong Quick Reaction Force (QRF), it said, along with 27 Dingo armoured cars, 19 Fuchs armoured personnel carriers and an unspecified number of Igel transporter vehicles.
The Social Democrats, junior partners in the governing coalition, are also pressing for Germany to deploy Tiger helicopter gunships, and the military is also pressing for self-propelled artillery vehicles, the paper said.
Germany has 3,800 troops under NATO command in northern Afghanistan, which has seen less fighting than the south and east where US, British and Canadian troops have battling an insurgency that has spilled over into Pakistan.
But the security situation in the north has deteriorated, prompting Chancellor Angela Merkel's government in 2008 to increase the number of German troops there to around 4,400 by later this year.
Since 2002, 32 troops have died in Afghanistan, compared with more than 700 US soldiers.
The mission is highly unpopular in Germany and is set to be an issue in the campaign for general elections on September 27.