EUFOR peacekeepers have been involved in the hunt for war crime suspectsImage: AP
DW staff (jam)
October 30, 2006
Berlin will begin gradually withdrawing its troops deployed with the international peacekeeping force in Bosnia as early as December, German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung announced.
"In Bosnia-Hercegovina it appears that after the election that has now taken place and went very well, we are in a new stabilization phase," Jung told ZDF public television late Sunday, referring to this month's polls in the country that was shattered by the 1992-1995 war.
"We will want to discuss in December how the exit strategy, that is, the withdrawal, should look," he said. "Our vision is that we will take the first concrete step in December."
Some 850 Bundeswehr soldiers are currently serving in Bosnia as part of a EUFOR force of about 7,000.
Jung said his decision was based in part on the growing number of deployments for the German military abroad. Germany currently has some 9,000 troops stationed abroad, including Africa, Afghanistan, Lebanon and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"In some areas, we have already hit the limit," he said.
According to Jung, elections in Bosnia in October "went very well," and helped further stabilize the country. The vote saw Bosnia's ethnic groups shifting from old nationalist parties that led them into the 1992-1995 war.
But there are still divisions. Muslims and Croats supported politicians who are focusing on unifying the Balkan country, while Serbs backed a candidate who continues to support ethnic division.
Most estimates put the number of people killed during the hostilities at around 60,000.
Support from former minister
Former Defense Minister Peter Struck also threw his support behind a gradual pullout of troops from the Balkans.
"One has to always ask oneself if a deployment is still justified," he told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag, adding that 11 years after the end of the Bosnian war, the Bundeswehr still has a large contingent there. "I think that many tasks there can be taken over by police from other European countries."
Bundeswehr soldiers have been embroiled in a scandal over photographs published last week of troops desecrating human skulls in Afghanistan, raising calls for Berlin to rethink its role in foreign peacekeeping missions.