Germany will send an additional 600 soldiers to Afghanistan to help provide security for presidential elections in August, according to NATO diplomats speaking in Brussels on Monday, Feb. 16.
German soldiers on patrol in Afghanistan
According to diplomats, Germany's troop level increase is part of an larger, temporary strengthening of the NATO mission in Afghanistan. During the elections, at least 3,000 additional soldiers from several NATO member states are to be posted in the strife-torn country.
Germany now has around 3,500 personnel in Afghanistan. The extra support will arrive six weeks before the election and remain until after any possible second round of voting is help in September, a NATO diplomat told the AFP news agency.
The election in August will be a key test for Afghan President Harmid Karzai, who has become increasingly unpopular in the country due to widespread corruption. Once a darling of the west, Karzai has also watched his support weaken there. On Sunday, he lashed out at growing US criticism of his government, highlighting the growing tensions between him and Washington as well as other western capitals.
His central government is seen as weak and he has been unsuccessful in countering a growing Taliban insurgency or curbing opium production.
The Taliban insurgency is growing in strength
NATO troops in the southern and eastern parts of the country have been engaged in fierce fighting with resurgent Taliban forces.
Germany has been criticized in the past by its allies for not sending troops into those regions -- its troops are now currently stationed in the relatively quiet northern part of the country.
However, Germany has defended its troop deployment, saying its presence in the north has greatly helped in stability and reconstruction efforts there.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is made up of more than 51,000 troops from around 40 nations. Germany has the third largest troop deployment under the NATO mission.