Germany plans to extend Afghan mission

Germany plans to extend Afghan mission

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet voted today to extend Germany’s military mission in Afghanistan for 14 more months.

The decision keeps the German military in Afghanistan until after next year’s parliamentary elections in Germany, government spokesman Thomas Steg said.

With the new mandate, the ceiling for the number of German troops serving with the NATO-led international force is expected to increase this year by 1,000 to 4,500 overall.

There are currently about 3,300 German troops in Afghanistan, most in the relatively calm north and the higher number will provide Germany with “necessary flexibility,” Mr Steg said.

Some 40 countries contribute troops to the 47,600-strong ISAF mission, led by the US with some 18,000 troops and Britain with more than 8,000. Germany is the third largest contributor, but has been criticised for not sending its troops to the volatile south.

The extension needs approval by the lower house of parliament, where Mrs Merkel’s coalition holds a commanding majority. The issue is to be debated later today.

The Afghanistan mission is generally unpopular in Germany, and some politicians have been talking of setting a date for an exit strategy.

But Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned ahead of the debate it was “not very responsible to wave exit dates around”.

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