The German government plans to send 1,000 additional troops to Afghanistan by the end of this year, Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung announced on Tuesday, June 24. The issue is likely to be a political hot potato.
Jung said additional soldiers would help Germany carry out its mission
The increase would bring German soldiers serving with NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to 4,500. The extra soldiers are needed to fulfill Germany's mission in the country and for their own security, Jung said.
"The increase is necessary to give us more flexibility to respond to challenges," Jung said.
The German defense minister said he would be informing the German parliament, which has to sign off on the plans, later in the day. The Bundestag is set to vote on a mandate for the German Bundeswehr mission in Afghanistan this autumn.
As of July 1, Germany will take over responsibility for the rapid deployment forces in order to protect ISAF operations in northern Afghanistan. The German military would also like to increase involvement in training of Afghan soldiers.
Approval sure to spark debate
Germany has no plans on sending troops to the south
Any increase in troop numbers would require the approval of Germany's lower house of parliament, the Bundestag. Under the current parliamentary mandate, Germany is allowed to send no more than 3,500 troops to Afghanistan. That limit has been reached in recent months and Jung wants it increased when the mandate comes up for renewal in October.
He also wants the new mandate to run until December 2009, a move which would prevent the issue from being debated during the middle of next fall's election campaign.
While the left-right ruling coalition has approved past troop increases, the issue remains sensitive in Germany. Some opposition parties are critical of the mission and opinion polls show a large proportion of the German population against increased involvement.
Allies keep up pressure
ISAF wants more German involvement
NATO partners, particularly the United States, have pressured Germany to send more troops to Afghanistan. They also want more German soldiers sent to the dangerous south to help fight a resurgent Taliban. The parliamentary mandate does not allow German soldiers to take part in combat missions.
Jung said German troops would remain focused on the north. But the new mandate would also send 40 communications specialists in the south, a mission that Germany would share with Denmark.
There are about 60,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, most of them part of the NATO-led ISAF force. Yet despite the heavy NATO involvement, some 6,000 people were killed in 2007, the deadliest year since the Taliban was forced from power in 2001.
German NATO General Egon Ramms this week said he urgently needs an additional 5,000 to 6,000 troops in Afghanistan.