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Germany

Bush Surprises With Praise of German Afghanistan Troops

Germany has firm plans to expand their mandate in Afghanistan, according to a newspaper report, as U.S. President George W. Bush praised Chancellor Schröder's commitment to the region to reporters on Friday.

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Germany wants to send peacekeeping troops to northern Afghanistan, according to reports.

Towards the end of a talk with reporters at his Texas ranch on Friday afternoon, U.S. President George W. Bush unexpectedly praised Germany's troop commitment to Afghanistan and said the words no one in Berlin ever expected to hear.

"Not only is Germany's participation important, it's robust, more robust than we would have anticipated," said Bush. "I look forward to thanking Chancellor Schröder for that."

Since Germany out-ed itself as a vocal opponent of the U.S. military invasion of Iraq, the relationship between the two old allies hasn't been the same. Though ministers and leaders on the cabinet level have made amends in recent months, the tension between Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and U.S. President George W. Bush was expected to hold until either one of them left office.

Now, the German press is full of speculation on whether Schröder will meet Bush during a planned trip to speak before the U.N. General Assembly in New York at the end of September. So far, government officials told the German press service dpa that no such plans are in the works.

German soldiers to Kundus?

The government has apparently decided to expand the presence of German soldiers in Afghanistan outside of the capital of Kabul, according to press reports. More than 2,000 German soldiers make up the lion's share of the U.N. International Security Assistance Force, in place since the end of the war. Germany has led the force since February, and will relinquish control to NATO on Monday.

International leaders, including U.N. General Secretary Kofi Annan, have called on participating countries to expand the force's mandate into still dangerous areas outside of Kabul. A bombing in the capital several months ago that killed four German soldiers and injured 29 others heated up the debate on Germany's role in the Afghanistan.

A decision on where German soldiers will head next in Afghanistan is expected to be reached on Monday, when German Defense Minister Peter Stuck visits the country.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that government officials had decided to send up to 1,000 soldiers to the northern city of Kundus for peacekeeping duties. The troops would relieve a U.S. reconstruction team already in the city and would be joined by Dutch and Swedish troops.

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