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Germany to send soldiers to train Kurds

December 17, 2014

Germany's government has agreed to send up to 100 Bundeswehr troops to northern Iraq. The soldiers, who will not be involved in combat, will train Kurdish forces fighting the "Islamic State" group.

Symbolbild - Bundeswehr bildet kurdische Peschmerga aus
Image: Bundeswehr/Florian Räbel/dpa

German lawmakers will debate whether to authorize the proposal in January, but as the German government has a large parliamentary majority it is expected the mission will be approved.

Germany has already delivered weapons and supplies worth some 70 million euros ($87.1 million) to help Iraq's Kurdish peshmerga forces. The controversial delivery was agreed to by the government in August, in order to help combat "Islamic State" militants who control swathes of northern Iraq and Syria.

Germany also sent 13 Bundeswehr soldiers to Irbil, the Kurdish regional capital, to give instruction on how to operate the equipment.

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday that Germany had "good experiences with the peshmerga. They are reliable and motivated, but they need good equipment and training."

Steinmeier und Von der Leyen Bundeskabinett Ressekonferenz Berlin 17.12.2014
Foreign Minister Steinmeier, and Defense Minister von der Leyen said Germany needed to support the peshmergaImage: Reuters/H. Hanschke

The Bundeswehr will provide various types of training in line with the peshmerga's requests, including medical services, clearance of mines and telecommunications. The peshmerga will be responsible for the military protection of the armed German trainers.

Von der Leyen said the Bundeswehr would work together on the ground with Dutch, Italian and Scandinavian armed forces, but would first establish the logistical structure of the mission. She said the Italian forces would likely take over "rotating responsibility" next summer.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters on Wednesday that "we have to make sure the front line against (the "Islamic State") is held."

Opposition parties have criticized the training mission, because it does not fall under the framework of a military mission mandated by the United Nations or NATO. Gregor Gysi, the head of the Left party, told the dpa news agency his party was considering whether to challenge the mission in Germany's Constitutional Court.

jr/sms (dpa, AP)