Germany Mulls Expanding Afghan Mission | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 17.08.2007
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Germany Mulls Expanding Afghan Mission

High-ranking German government officials on Friday reiterated the country's commitment to continue its mission in Afghanistan as Canadian and US officials urged Berlin to increase the number of troops.

A German soldier with Afghan men

Will Afghans see more of this in the future?

Attending a memorial service for three German police officers who were killed by in a bomb attack outside the Afghan capital of Kabul on Wednesday, Deputy Interior Minister August Hanning said that the German deployment to Afghanistan was in the interest of Germany's own security.

"I can assure that the German government is fully committed to the engagement in Afghanistan," Hanning said in Kabul on Friday, calling the memorial service "a very bitter moment."

Merkel knew one victim

German embassy in Kabul

The memorial service took place at the German embassy in Kabul

The police officers killed in the attack were sent to Afghanistan by Germany's Federal Criminal Police (BKA) to protect the German embassy in Kabul. German Chancellor Angela Merkel personally knew one of the men as he was assigned to her security detail for several years before being sent to Afghanistan.

The men were the first German police officers to be killed in Afghanistan. Since the start of the mission, 25 German soldiers have died, 14 of them in attacks.

More Germans wanted

Canadian and US officials meanwhile have called on Germany to increase its presence in Afghanistan.

"We would welcome it if Germany and other countries -- this is a concerted NATO effort -- would send more soldiers," Paul Dubois, the Canadian ambassador to Germany, told the public broadcast Deutschlandradio on Friday.

ISAF troops in southern Afghanistan

ISAF troops in southern Afghanistan

He added that International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was "still fairly small" at 40,000 troops, 2,500 of which are Canadian. Dubois said that 66 Canadian military personnel and one Canadian diplomat had died in Afghanistan so far.

Germany currently has some 3,000 soldiers stationed in Afghanistan and three separate mandates are up for renewal by the parliament in the fall.

Going south

Several German lawmakers have been traveling to Afghanistan, NATO's headquarters in Brussels and allied countries to prepare an extension of the mission, which is increasingly losing support in Germany.

Jörn Thiessen, a Social Democratic member of parliament and his party's defense expert, told Rheinische Post newspaper that US officials had told him they were expecting Germany to beef up its training of Afghan soldiers.

Thiessen added that the Americans were aware of Germany's concerns to send troops to the more dangerous south, but had asked that German soldiers accompany Afghan trainees in case they are moved from the safer region around Kabul to the south.

PR failure?

German soldiers in Afghanistan

German soldiers in Afghanistan

Deputy Foreign Minister Gernot Erler meanwhile told Berliner Zeitung that Germany was thinking about expanding its participation.

"This is something that's under consideration within the federal government," he said, adding that it was still unclear whether an expansion could happen within the current mandate, which is limited to 3,600 troops.

"What's clear is that our work in the north cannot be called into question just because we're taking on new tasks," he said, adding that convincing the German population of the importance of the Afghanistan mission had failed so far.

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