The German Defense Minister Franz-Josef Jung has said the German military would not send additional soldiers to southern Afghanistan as requested in an unusually direct letter from his US counterpart.
Germany's current mandate stipulates a maximum of 3,500 troops in Afghanistan
Jung said the Bundeswehr would not contribute additional soldiers to the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, as requested in a letter sent last week by US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to European NATO members.
"I am still of the opinion that we will continue and fulfill our mandate in Afghanistan," he told reporters in Berlin on Friday, Feb. 1.
Gates has insisted on 3,200 additional European troops to relieve American soldiers in Afghanistan, German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Thursday.
US warns against division in NATO
Gates' letter came unexpectedly, according to reports
Gates reportedly expressed concerns about the disproportionate burden on US troops in the volatile South, a possible split in the NATO alliance, and a loss of credibility if reinforcements were not sent.
Germany currently has 3,200 soldiers, mainly in northern Afghanistan and the capital city of Kabul, as part of the 40,000-strong NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
The US has some 29,000 troops in Afghanistan. Gates was criticized at home for his recent decision to send an additional 3,200 Marines to the war zone this spring without demanding assistance from European allies.
The letter, which was apparently sent to all NATO states ahead of a Feb. 7 meeting of the organization's defense ministers in Vilnius, was presumably intended to retroactively appease his domestic critics.
The US is not alone in its appeal for back-up. Canada, which has suffered 77 casualties in Afghanistan, has threatened to pull out its 2,500 soldiers if NATO doesn't send reinforcements.
Germany ups aid money
NATO defense ministers meet next week in Vilnius, Lithuania
Germany's current parliamentary mandate limits its participation to 3,500 troops in northern Afghanistan, though troops can be sent to other areas under exceptional circumstances. It has also sent a handful of Tornado reconnaissance jets to the South to assist the NATO mission. In addition, Germany has been involved in training Afghan police officers in the North.
This week, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told the German newspaper Die Welt that sending more foreign troops to his country was not as critical as training the local police and military.
"More than anything else, we need help to rebuild our human capital and our institutions our army, our police force, our administrative structure, our judiciary and so on," Karzai said.
The German Development Ministry said this week it will boost aid to the war-torn country by 1 million euros (nearly $1.5 million) to help counter the effects of a particularly harsh winter.
"The trial in Afghanistan cannot be won if we only see it the military aspect," Jung said.