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Germany

U.S. Expected to Ask Germany, France To Send Troops To Iraq

With the U.S. Senate poised to request NATO troops to stabilize security in Iraq, the German and French governments are expecting to be asked to send their own soldiers, despite their opposition to the war.

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The U.S. says it will need help bringing Iraq under control.

Following Thursday's unanimous decision by the United States Senate to request NATO support for its occupation of Iraq, Germany and France are expected to receive official requests for troops.

But officials in both France and Germany have said they would oppose even considering sending troops without a United Nations mandate. A spokesman for the German Defense Ministry confirmed his ministry's stance to Deutsche Welle on Thrusday.

The latest diplomatic negotiations come against a backdrop of rising violence and instability in Iraq. Every day, new reports come out of attacks against U.S. soldiers. A total of 31 have been killed since U.S. President George W. Bush announced the end of the main fighting in Iraq in May. Reports also indicate that morale among the 146,000 U.S. soldiers currently stationed in Iraq is plunging. The U.S. government also admitted this week that costs have increased dramatically – rising from approximately $2 billion a month in April, taxpayers were told they would have to spend to $3.9 billion a month now.

On Wednesday and Thursday, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spent two days before the Senate answering questions about Operation Iraqi Freedom and the recent spiral of violence.

Retired U.S. General Tommy Franks said the country should expect to have troops stationed in Iraq for as long as four years.

"I anticipate we'll be involved in Iraq in the future," Franks told the House Armed Services Committee Thursday. "Whether that means two years or four years, I don't know."

Sharing the burden

With rising costs and an increasing number of deaths among American and British soldiers, U.S. politicians are now keen to share the burden with other countries. On Thursday, the Senate voted 97-0 to request that the president "consider requesting formally and expeditiously that NATO raise a force for deployment in post-war Iraq similar to what it has done in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo."

Currently Polish, Italian and Spanish troops are on the ground alongside American and British soldiers in Iraq, but those countries, despite their NATO membership, are not participating in the occupying forces under the auspices of NATO. Now, a number of U.S. politicians want to expand that roster of countries.

Democratic Senator John Kerry, who is a candidate for the U.S. presidency, said it was time to bring the international community into the rebuilding and security effort in Iraq. "It is time for the president to tell the truth that we lack sufficient forces to do the job of reconstruction in Iraq and withdraw in a reasonable time," Kerry said. "America should not go it alone."

The discussion came after Rumsfeld on Wednesday said he wanted to make a request to NATO members to send troops to Iraq to support the U.S. and British soldiers already stationed there. As NATO members, Germany and France – the most vocal opponents of the war in Iraq – are likely to be among those asked to aid in those efforts.

"Our goal is to get large numbers of international forces in from lots of countries, including those two," Rumsfeld said on Tuesday.

Trouble for Berlin

But the request could throw the government of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder into a crisis. If the request comes, the government would be faced with two choices: It could offer its support and send German NATO troops to Iraq or it could contribute financially to the immense costs of democratizing the country.

It's unlikely Germany will send troops to Iraq considering that the Bundeswehr has already been stretched to its limits with other peacekeeping operations. It currently has over 8,000 German soldiers deployed on foreign missions -- mostly in Afghanistan and in the Balkans region. With an anticipated €30 billion shortfall in its 2004 fiscal budget, it is also unlikely Germany will be able to contribute much by way of checkbook diplomacy.

Unnamed German government sources told Deutsche Welle on Thursday that the idea of Germany sending peacekeeping troops to Iraq isn't even a subject for debate at this point.

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin has said that French soldiers would only be deployed at the request of the United Nations. If NATO does submit official requests to Germany and France, and they are rejected, it would once again portray NATO as a divided alliance.

In February, Germany, France and Belgium launched one of the worst crises in NATO's 53-year history after they intially vetoed a U.S. request to begin planning to defend Turkey if Iraq launched an attack on its neighbor response to a U.S. invasion. The countries maintained that such preparations would suggest war against Iraq was inevitable. Eventually, the three agreed to change their positions, but the event demonstrated a level of discord that threatened the future of NATO. The alliance has been struggling to redefine its mission in the post-Cold War era.

Next week, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer is expected to make his first trip to the United States since the war and some in government circles fear troop participation could become an issue, even though it's not on the planned agenda.

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