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German AWACS answer

March 23, 2011

The German cabinet has decided to take on more aerial surveillance flights over Afghanistan on a temporary basis. Having refused to join the international mission in Libya, Germany wants to help elsewhere.

An AWACS surveillance jet
Germany is not prepared to carry out AWACS flights over LibyaImage: AP

German politicians are seeking a swift consensus on greater participation in aerial surveillance missions over Afghanistan; as the country tries to show its NATO allies that it's willing to indirectly lighten their new load in Libya.

Cabinet members in Berlin have agreed to send up to 300 further German troops to Afghanistan to carry out so-called AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) missions for NATO. The German parliament will discuss the draft later on Wednesday.

"We want to relieve the strain on NATO, by putting our German troops back into planes over there," Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere said in an interview with German public radio. He implied that some or all of the troops would probably hail from a German AWACS contingent formerly stationed in the Mediterranean, which Berlin pulled out of the region late on Tuesday to ensure that they would not take part in any action against Libya.

Similar AWACS missions are now required over Libya to monitor the UN weapons embargo and the no-fly zone.

"This would be a genuine relief for NATO, and a political sign of our solidarity with our allies - particularly against the backdrop of recent events in Libya," de Maiziere said.

The additional 300 troops would still leave the number of Bundeswehr troops serving in the ISAF-led mission below the mandatory upper limit of 5,350.

Thomas de Maiziere
De Maiziere has only been defense minister for a few weeksImage: AP

Making amends elsewhere

Germany last week joined India, China, Russia and Brazil in abstaining from the UN Security Council vote on military intervention in Libya, putting the country at odds with its European neighbors and closest NATO allies.

This decision has drawn some criticism at home and abroad. A former foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, wrote in the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily that Germany had "lost its credibility in the United Nations and in the Middle East" by taking this decision, and had "permanently dashed" its hopes of ever getting a permanent seat on the Security Council.

De Maiziere rejected these criticisms, saying that the conservative Christian Democrats "didn't need lessons on solidarity from anyone in Germany."

"Also, we can't intervene in civil wars around the entire world," the German defense minister said.

Author: Mark Hallam (dapd, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Michael Lawton