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Bundeswehr lacks necessary personnel, says association

Germany needs more soldiers to carry out its military obligations, according to the German Armed Forces Association. It says numbers have been reduced too far to cope with current crises.

The German Bundeswehrverband (Armed Forces Association) on Saturday reiterated a call for the German army to employ more personnel, above all in the light of the planned deployment of at least 1,200 soldiers to Syria approved by parliament on Friday.

"At present, we need at least 5,000 to 10,000 more soldiers," the director of the association, André Wüstner, told the newspaper "Passauer Neue Presse."

He said this was made necessary not only because of Bundeswehr missions in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Mali, but also because of new laws on working hours that will "rightly no longer allow health-endangering round-the-clock shifts during normal operations."

Too much reduction

Wüstner said that cuts to personnel numbers in the Bundeswehr had gone too far.

"During the reform in 2011, no one had in mind the Ukraine crisis or the fight against 'Islamic State,'' he said. He pointed out that the government had not been able to predict that in 2016 more than 20,000 soldiers would be involved in military missions or obligations including helping refugees.

"Now the Afghanistan mission is being extended as well, and we will soon have a stronger presence in northern Iraq and Mali," Wüstner said.

André Wüstner

Wüstner is an oberleutnant in the Bundeswehr

The Bundeswehrverband is an independent association that represents the interests of current and former members of the German armed forces and their families, as well as those of civilian employees of the Bundeswehr.

No debate yet

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Friday that the government was not planning on increasing numbers in the army despite the current strains on personnel.

"So far, we have not held any debates about enlarging the Bundeswehr in the Cabinet or among ministers," Steinmeier said, adding that the decision to participate in the Syria mission had been taken by Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen on the basis of the current troop strength.

Von der Leyen herself, however, seemed more open on the issue.

"It is clear to me that if the world continues to make such high demands on us, we will certainly have to have the flexibility to make personnel adjustments," she told a press conference.

German mass-market "Bild" newspaper reported Saturday that von der Leyen was considering sending German special forces to Syria should an emergency situation develop, such as if a German jet were to be shot down.

At present, the Bundeswehr employs 179,000 soldiers. Currently, some 3,000 are deployed overseas, the lowest number since the 1990s.

A reform of the Bundeswehr in 2010 saw conscription abolished and the size of the army reduced from 250,000 soldiers to the current level.

tj/sms (dpa, AFP)

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