Germany is to send more troops to Afghanistan to help with reconnaissance flights. With the move, Berlin hopes to free up NATO troops for operations in Libya.
NATO AWACS aircraft regularly monitor Afghan airspace
The German parliament has agreed to send up to 300 air force personnel to join the NATO mission in Afghanistan, boosting Germany's presence in the country to 5,300 troops.
The extra airmen will serve on NATO airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft, used to monitor Afghan airspace.
The parliament approved the decision with the large majority of 407-113. There were 32 abstentions.
Both the Left party and the Greens rejected the deployment.
The German government said the troop increase would free up allied NATO troops to participate in international military operations in Libya.
Shortly before the decision was taken, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle described it as "a rational policy of solidarity." He said Germany would not put its allies in Libya in danger, despite not taking part in operations there itself.
Westerwelle's FDP party backed the decision
Philipp Missfelder, a foreign policy expert in Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, also defended the decision.
Missfelder said the new deployment meant Germany was fulfilling its responsibility, even if the Afghanistan mission remains unpopular among the German population.
Missfelder stressed that the operation in Afghanistan also helped ensure the security of Germany and that there would be no rash withdrawal of troops from the country.
The decision marks the sixth time that the number of Bundeswehr soldiers in Afghanistan has been increased. Germany still intends to start pulling out its troops from the region at the end of this year.
Author: Timothy Jones (dpa, AP, AFP)
Editor: Martin Kuebler