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German Cabinet approves new mandate for Afghanistan mission

The German Cabinet has approved sending more soldiers to Afghanistan in 2015. The NATO-led mission follows a 13-year combat tour and is aimed at training Afghan security forces.

Approval for a new mandate for Germany's Afghanistan mission in 2015 was pushed one step forward by the German Cabinet on Wednesday.

Germany, like other countries participating in the NATO-led combat mission, is reducing its number of personnel stationed in Afghanistan with the mission scheduled to end on December 31.

As of January 1, the remaining German military presence will act under a new training mission dubbed "Resolute Support."

Berlin had originally foreseen between 600 and 800 troops for the non-combat campaign. However, the new mandate increases the limit to 850 military personnel, citing the need for more staff to provide support to helicopter evacuations.

Over 1,500 German soldiers are currently stationed in Afghanistan's north, where they will retain their role as the leading foreign military force in that region next year. Their new mandate foresees an advisory and support role to Afghan security forces, which they will also provide with training.

While it is "not a combat mission," the mandate approved by the Cabinet notes that German troops could engage in fighting if their own security or the security of other NATO partners is threatened.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) currently has over 34,000 NATO troops stationed in Afghanistan. Following the withdrawal of troops in the coming weeks, the number will be reduced to 12,000 troops for the training mission. The United States has committed nearly 10,000 of its own troops to "Resolute Support."

Passage pending Bundestag approval

The bill must now gain the approval of the Bundestag, which is set to vote on the measure in December.

Ahead of the Cabinet decision, a member of the Greens party and former UN ambassador, Tom Koenigs, vowed to vote against the mandate.

Commenting on the unlikelihood of defeating the Taliban after an unsuccessful 13-year mission, Koenigs told German daily "Die Welt" on Wednesday: "It doesn't make sense anymore."

The Greens party politician served as the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General for Afghanistan and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007.

The other minority party in the Bundestag - the Left - also criticized the Cabinet's expected extension of the mission.

"If [the government] were really serious about supporting civilians in peace efforts and supporting reconstruction, then there would have to be a complete withdrawal of the military and a massive ramping up of aid for civilians," Left politician Jan van Aken said on Tuesday.

Support for Kabul, with conditions

The Cabinet approval for the new mandate came a day after German Development Minister Gerd Müller visited Kabul. There, he met with the nation's leaders, President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah.

"Afghanistan can count on us during these difficult times. We are still a reliable partner and won't let the country down," Müller told them, according to a press release.

While vowing continued support, Müller stressed that Berlin expected signs of reforms aimed at curbing corruption and ensuring human rights.

"In the future, a part of our commitment will also be tied to reform steps," he said.

Germany provides Afghanistan with 430 million euros ($539 million) in subsidies, with roughly 250 milion euros flowing directly into the development of infrastructure, education and businesses.

kms/ksb (AFP, Reuters)

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