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German Planes in Action

DW staff / AFP (nda)September 30, 2006

A defense ministry source has revealed that German military aircraft are seeing action in the volatile southern region of Afghanistan. The report comes days after German help in the south was officially ruled out.

German Transall aircraft wait on an airfield for take-off
German Transall aircraft have been ferrying troops and supplies to and from the volitile southImage: dpa - Report

German military aircraft are supporting NATO operations in volatile southern Afghanistan, a defence ministry spokesman said Saturday, confirming a report to appear in Monday's edition of the weekly Der Spiegel.

The report came after Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung ruled out any possibility of transferring German troops from the north to help fight a dogged Taliban-led insurgency in the south.

Der Spiegel said German Transall transport aircraft and helicopters had made some 60 flights this year into the south, ferrying allied soldiers and evacuating wounded.

Secret mission a compromise in deployment discussions

The weekly said the operation, hitherto kept secret, was largely aimed at deflecting pressure on Berlin to switch forces to the south from the more peaceful north, where it has some 2,750 troops deployed.

The German parliament on Thursday agreed to extend the contingent's mission for another year, but Jung said it would be "totally wrong" to move troops from the north, where attacks had "almost doubled" in the past 12 months.

Also Thursday NATO agreed to expand its military operations into eastern Afghanistan, even as it struggles to find troops to hold the south.

French soldiers arrive to the scene of a car boming in Kabul
Escalating violence has NATO forces stretchedImage: AP

The agreement, endorsed at a meeting of alliance defence ministers, would see some 12,000 US troops come under NATO control within Afghanistan's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) within weeks.

It would permit NATO's commanders to move US soldiers from the east down to the Taliban's southern heartland, where British, Dutch and Canadian troops have been locked in battle.

Violence increases threat of all-out war

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer both urged the allies to do more, amid a general reluctance to supply around 2,000 reinforcements called for by supreme commander US General James Jones.

But US officers in the east say attacks on their troops have increased two- to three-fold recently, and, according to one diplomat, Jones told the ministers that the threat in the west had "gone from medium to high."

More than 100 foreign soldiers have been killed in hostile action in Afghanistan this year, about half of them US troops, and Iraq-style suicide bombings have been on the rise.

Der Spiegel said Berlin had turned down a NATO request to deploy Tornado reconnaissance aircraft in Afghanistan.