Germany’s Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is touring the Middle East to meet German troops based there. The minister has come out strongly in favor of continuing Germany's military mission in the region.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is visiting Jordan and Iraq as part of her first trip to the Middle East as Germany's defense minister. The 56-year-old politician — commonly known as AKK in Germany — said the visit helps her to learn more about the anti-terrorist mission the German troops are involved in on the ground there.
On Monday, the minister was in Jordan, where she spoke of the contribution of German troops stationed in the country to the battle against the so-called Islamic State (IS) terror group in the Middle East. IS no longer controls territory, but maintains a presence in the region.
In Jordan, AKK also reiterated Berlin's support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Such an agreement would be a "good basis for living together," AKK said.
Extending the mandate?
From Jordan, AKK arrived in Iraq's Baghdad late Monday. The minister's Iraq trip gains additional significance as Germany's non-combat military involvement in the country is set to expire by the end of October this year.
Last year, the German Parliament decided the country's forces would end their reconnaissance missions and the air-to-air refueling of international aircraft that are part of US-led operations against IS in Iraq and Syria by October 31, 2019.
AKK, who is a proponent of extending the military's mandate, and the German government will have to decide whether to seek an extension from the Parliament. "It has been made clear in all my discussions how important Germany's contribution to the international fight against terrorism in the region has been," the minister said in Jordan on Monday.
But an extension of the military mandate is not a given, as the German government is plagued by in-fighting over the issue. Some voices in the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), the junior party in Chancellor Angela Merkel's governing coalition, have already expressed skepticism regarding an extension.
Demand for more money
The SPD is also against a potential hike in the military's budget, while AKK wants the government to take steps to raise German military spending to 2% of gross domestic product by 2024.
The number is NATO's stated target for domestic military budgets, and a frequent demand of US President Donald Trump. That would mean an increase in military spending by tens of billions of euros.
AKK succeeded Merkel as leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party late last year.
While she is viewed as a potential successor to Merkel in the chancellery, her public image has taken a hit following a series of political blunders at home. A Forsa poll published in May this year showed showed 70% of respondents considered that AKK was not capable of being chancellor.
sri/rc (dpa, AFP, Reuters)