Germany turns down US request for more Afghan troops

1st February 2008, Comments 0 comments

The defence minister says Germany will continue with its current mandate.

Berlin -- Germany on Friday turned down a request from the United States to send combat troops to southern Afghanistan, where most of the fighting with the Taliban and al-Qaeda is taking place.

Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung said Germany would continue with its current mandate providing for the deployment of up to 3,500 troops, mostly in the relatively peaceful north of the country.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm also ruled out a change in the German commitment, which was approved by the German parliament in October 2007.

The officials were responding to a letter by US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates requesting German participation in a 3,200-man force to beef up the NATO presence in Afghanistan.

Gates' letter asked Germany to consider a new mandate, which could allow thousands more troops to be sent to Afghanistan, with some deployed to the more dangerous south.

It also requests Germany provide helicopter support and paratroopers for the nearly 37,000-strong NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Germany currently has 3,200 troops in Afghanistan as well as six Tornado surveillance jets.

The letter, which was also sent to other NATO allies, is expected to be high on the agenda at an informal meeting of NATO defence ministers in Vilnius next week.

The Pentagon said earlier this week that it would urge NATO allies to send more troops to southern Afghanistan.

The reluctance of European NATO allies to contribute extra soldiers or limit their role to peacekeeping missions has frustrated the United States, and most recently Canada.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Monday that he was extending the mission of his country's 2,500 troops in the country but criticized NATO countries for refusing to send more soldiers.

Harper said the extension was contingent on European allies sending more troops to meet requests for an additional 7,000 troops in the heavy fighting area of southern Afghanistan.

Gates announced earlier this month the deployment of 3,200 marines to shore up the gap. There are already about 26,000 US soldiers in Afghanistan, about half of them under NATO's command.

The German government has been considering a NATO request for combat troops for a Quick Reaction Force in northern Afghanistan to replace a 350-strong Norwegian force that leaves in July.

DPA with Expatica

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