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German Politicians Nervous About Afghan Mission Extension

Germany's defense minister has called for cutting back on troops in anti-terror operations, a paper reported. Another top politician said Chancellor Merkel should tell Germany why its soldiers should be in Afghanistan.

A German soldier in Afghanistan

Merkel should explain why Germany should be in Afghanistan, Struck said

Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung was in favor of reducing the number of Germans involved in the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) from 1,800 to 1,400 soldiers, German weekly Bild am Sonntag reported. The Christian Democrat had already discussed the idea with Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a Social Democrat, the paper wrote.

Bild am Sonntag interpreted Jung's move as a means to increase the likelihood of the Social Democrats (SPD) approving extension of the German military's participation in OEF and in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), when they come before parliament in November.

Some SPD parliamentarians as well as Green party legislators oppose the participation of 100 German elite forces in the OEF deployment.

The SPD and the Christian Union parties, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, make up Germany's governing coalition. Merkel's bloc is anxious to ensure the mission is extended.

Criticism for Merkel

In an interview published Saturday, Social Democratic parliamentary group leader Peter Struck called on the chancellor to take a stronger stance on the Afghanistan mission.
Franz Josef Jung

Like Struck, Defense Minister Jung thinks Germany should stay

"It would be very desirable if, above all, Angela Merkel, were to explain to the Germans why the commitment is necessary," Struck said in an interview with Der Spiegel newsmagazine published Saturday.

"There is the widespread opinion, of course in my party, too: It would be best if we left, they can go ahead and kill each other," he said. "But a state like Germany can't behave that way internationally."

The former defense minister estimated that the international community, including Germany, would remain in Afghanistan for at least a decade before the country would be able to "stand on its own feet."

German soldiers also patrol the Horn of Africa as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

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