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Germany

German ISAF Troops Face "Mounting Risks"

German troops attached to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan face a dangerous time in the run-up to elections, according to Defense Minister Peter Struck Monday.

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Struck (second from right) visited Afghanistan on Monday

Foreign peacekeepers in Afghanistan face a mounting risk of attacks in the run-up to parliamentary elections next month, visiting German Defense Minister Peter Struck said Monday.

Struck visited German troops serving with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the northeastern city of Faizabad. He said the security situation before the Sept. 18 poll was "threatening."

He added he assumed that insurgent forces in Afghanistan would increasingly "launch massive attacks against foreign forces."

"We must be very concerned about the security of our soldiers," he said.

Comi n g electio n s prompt escalatio n of viole n ce

Bombenanschlag in Kandahar

Afghan soldier looks at wrecked bicycle in which the bomb was planted, next to an damaged truck and blood stain of the victims in Kandahar. A bomb attached to a bicycle killed at least 10 people, most of them children, in the southern city of Kandahar on Tuesday, underlining the violence still plaguing Afghanistan.

Rebel fighters loyal to Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime have pledged to disrupt the elections. Around 1,000 people have died so far this year during a rise in violence linked to the militants.

Taliban insurgents are battling the government army and about 20,000 US troops across south and east Afghanistan. Spanish troops attached to the ISAF have also been engaged in recent heavy fighting around Herat.

Struck said Germany had no intention of pulling out of Afghanistan despite the increasing danger.

"If we withdrew, we would leave the warlords, drug dealers and Taliban to take over," he said.

The German commander in Faizabad, Colonel Peter Baierl, said the troops had repeatedly been the target of attacks in recent days. A lone rocket struck the German military camp of the civil-military Faizabad Provincial Reconstruction Team late Saturday but caused no injuries.

He said he believed most of the violence in Faizabad was not politically motivated but rather the product of drug wars in the region.

Struck was to visit German soldiers in the northeastern province of Kunduz later Monday.

More Germa n troops expected

ISAF Soldaten aus Deutschland in Afghanistan

German soldiers in Kabul.

Germany currently has some 2,200 troops serving with the 10,500-strong ISAF working to bolster security in northern and western Afghanistan and the capital Kabul.

Media reports in July suggested that the defense ministry could employ German troops further afield across the whole of region patrolled by ISAF.

A defense ministry spokesman told Reuters the Bundestag would be asked to approve a government request to extend the soldiers' mandate beyond Oct. 13 and make as many as 3,000 soldiers available.

Many soldiers are stationed with civilian-military Provincial Reconstruction Teams which undertake reconstruction and development work as well as providing security.

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