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Europe

Germany's Military Missions

The parliament in Berlin pledged 3,900 soldiers to Operation Enduring Freedom. Where are they now?

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Global theatre of operations

Never has world war been so diffuse.

The theatre of operations is global, yet armed struggle is limited to a few locales. When Germany pledged 3,900 soldiers to the US-led "war on terror" in November last year, many Germans could not have imagined how far and wide their troops would be spread.

So far, troops have been deployed in Afghanistan, the United States, Turkey and the Horn of Africa, while some have stayed behind in Germany as home-base support.

Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has played down the chance of German leadership of the 17-nation peacekeeping force in Afghanistan, though Britain’s mandate to lead ends in the end of April.

But he told US President George W. Bush on his recent visit to Washington that the federal republic remains "committed to the participation in the peace corps in Afghanistan, under the umbrella of the United Nations."

That leaves Germany’s "Enduring Freedom" force spread thinly around the globe.

Afghanistan

The Bundeswehr’s deployment of 1,200 soldiers in Afghanistan has forced it to stretch its resources, but after Germany’s key role in the truce between anti-Taliban warlords, it is an important ingredient of the international force of 5,000.

But the force’s heavy concentration on Kabul, seat of the Hamid Karzai’s interim government, has left most of the war-torn country unguarded. Fighting between rival warlords this week in a region 100 km away from the capital was a powerful reminder of Afghanistan’s instability.

The Bundeswehr expects to deploy a nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) defense unit in February. According to the parliamentary mandate, NBC forces could be as large as 800 soldiers, and it would likely go to Afghanistan, too.

Horn of Africa

The largest German deployment to date is naval.

Six ships set sail for the Horn of Africa in early January and arrived toward the end of the month, docking at Djibouti. The core of the force is three frigates carrying some 1,800 sailors, sent to patrol sea lanes in the region.

They may also have a covert role, monitoring Somalia and Yemen, two countries where US officials say El Qaeda forces may have set up base.

Five fast patrol boats are following in their wake, sent as cargo on a transport ship sailing from Wilhelmshaven January 13.

United States

One of the more peculiar deployments is in the heartland of the United States, where 40-50 German military and civilian personnel have been stationed as part of a NATO reconnaissance mission.

They are part of a 190-man force with five NATO E-3A AWACS aircraft based at Tinker Air Force Base near Oklahoma City.

Kenya

The Defence Ministry announced that Germany plans to station navy reconnaissance planes in Kenya, at the port of Mombasa. If the mission goes forward, 100 sailors and support forces will travel there to man three aircraft and monitor shipping in the Indian Ocean.

Turkey

Germany chose Incirlik, Turkey, as its base for air transport supporting US forces in Afghanistan, and 100 military personnel were stationed there from November 26 to January 10.

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