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Germany

German Army Chief Wants More Troops in Afghanistan

The German army's chief of staff wants more troops in northern Afghanistan following a string of recent attacks on German soldiers and their Afghan helpers, he said in a magazine interview published on Sunday, April 13.

German soldier in Afghanistan

The army's head wants more troops in the face of stepped-up attacks

Wolfgang Schneiderhan told the weekly magazine Focus that the 3,500-strong mission in northern Afghanistan was stretched to the limit. He also said he expects more attacks on his troops by insurgents, although the north is widely seen as more peaceful than the restive southern part of the country.

The number of troops "takes away flexibility for me to react quickly to any worsening in the situation. I will argue this when the extension of the mandate comes up for discussion in the autumn," Schneiderhan said.

Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung, left, and Wolfgang Schneiderhan

Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung, left, and Wolfgang Schneiderhan

According to the online edition of Der Spiegel magazine, Schneiderhan went further in a recent meeting with a parliamentary defense committee, telling ministers that recent attacks were evidence of an "alarming development."

Schneiderhan told the committee in a meeting behind closed doors that the situation in the north was "not quiet and not stable" and that German troops were being faced with "new challenges" as a result of an increase in violence, Spiegel reported.

Attacks on the increase

German troops have been attacked three times in recent weeks. No German soldiers were killed but other attacks have killed seven Afghans working as helpers for reconstruction teams, Spiegel said in

an article published on Sunday.

German troops in Kunduz

Germany has resisted pressure to deploy troops in southern Afghanistan

Since 2002, 26 German troops have been killed in Afghanistan. The soldiers, whose number hovers in reality around the 3,200 mark due to troop fluctuations, is part of NATO's 47,000-strong International Security and Assistance Force.

Berlin has resisted pressure from NATO allies to deploy its forces in the south of the country where US, British and Canadian soldiers are bearing the brunt of a tenacious Taliban insurgency.

In late February rockets were fired at German forces' barracks in Kunduz, and last Wednesday there was a suicide attack on a German patrol. A bomb attack on a German armored vehicle in late March injured three German troops. "Our soldiers are not cowards. They went straight back out on patrol," Scheinderhan told the parliamentary committee, rejecting suggestions that Germany has chosen a less dangerous option by limiting its mission mainly in the north.

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