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Germany

Germany decides to contribute troops to US-led War on Terrorism

4, 000 German troops will be sent to Afghanistan to assist in the US-led fight against terrorism. But discussions over the operation are putting strain on the governing coalition.

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Preparing for a new operation

Speculation had been mounting for days as to whether the US had asked the German Government for military support. It increased on Tuesday morning when the SPD's parliamentary leader Peter Struck was called to Chancellor Schröder's office. And then around 1pm, the chancellor addressed the media personally.

"The German government is confident that this package will actively support the fight against international terrorism and fully meet our alliance obligations," Schröder said.

The package involves nearly four thousand troops, including transport planes for back-up purposes and evacuation of casualties.

The exact location and date of deployment is not yet known.

The same applies to the hundred special forces and the Fuchs armoured reconnaissance vehicle which can detect nuclear, biological and chemical agents.

Germany's largest military operation since World War II

The largest contingent will come from the navy. Their job will be to protect US vessels at sea. It's Germany's largest military operation since the Second World War.

"I don't think anyone who has to weigh up and make such decisions is particularly happy that it's become necessary - let's be honest about this. But at this point, you have to remember that this is only necessary because the international terrorism network is behaving in the way it is," Schröder said.

Even some of Schröder's own party have expressed doubts about the US-led bombing campaign in recent days. But in Tuesday's party meeting, the SDP presented a united front. But Schröder's pacifist junior coalition partner, the Greens, were clearing not so willing to oblige.

"We're talking about a fundamental decision as to whether we lend our support to a limited deployment of troops, or - which is the tendency in the Green party at the moment - we say the US strategy is completely unreasonable and the bombing campaign should be stopped," Green top politician Angeliak Beer said.

But even if the Greens are unhappy about it - that is unlikely to prevent a deployment of German troops. The conservative opposition parties have already said they will support the decision providing the necessary parliamentary majority. The verdict of the German press was unanimous on Tuesday: the decision represents an historical change in German foreign policy.

"This military operation and even the request from the US represents a break with the past because for the first time Germany will have to engage in a war the outcome of which we can't predict. For the first time, German troops will be deployed abroad in a whole range of areas including perhaps active combat," Green politician Michael Möller said.

Put in this light, Michael Möller feels the reservations of many Germans more than understandable.