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Germany

Minister Wants to Raise German Troop Levels in Afghanistan

Germany's troop numbers in Afghanistan should be increased from the current 3,500, the country's defense minister said ahead of a major aid conference on Afghanistan in Paris.

German soldier in Afghanistan, tank in the background

German Defense Minister Jung wants to send more soldiers to Afghanistan

"It is correct to say that we are aiming at increased flexibility here," Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung told national public radio Deutschlandfunk on Thursday, June 12.

The minister, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), said he planned to announce his intentions before the parliamentary summer recess begins next month but refused to be drawn on the number.

Current speculation in the German press is that the number will rise to between 4,500 and 5,000.

The 3,500 limit has at times been exceeded, when units are rolled over.

Germany sticks to the North

German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung

Jung, seen here in Afghanistan, said Germany should increase its flexibility

Jung stressed that Germany would continue to focus its efforts on the relatively peaceful north of the country, where it will be providing the Quick Reaction Force from early July, taking over from Norway.

He was speaking as a key conference on Afghanistan, aimed at boosting support for the government there and securing substantial funding, got underway in Paris.

On Thursday, prior to the conference, the German foreign ministry announced it would provide 420 million euros ($655 million) for reconstruction in Afghanistan.

Under pressure from NATO

The current German mandate for its troops runs out in mid-October, when parliament must approve a renewal.

The annual mandate renewal regularly receives broad parliamentary backing, with only the socialist Left party firmly opposed, while the Greens were divided last October.

A majority of the general population opposes the deployment. A poll in February showed strong opposition to deploying German troops to the volatile south of the country, with 85 percent of the 1,001 surveyed opposed.

Germany has come under pressure from its NATO allies to increase its efforts in Afghanistan, and in particular to provide combat troops to assist the US, British, Canadian and Dutch forces in the embattled south.

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