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German Govt. Proposes Compromise On Troop Increase


German govt. proposes compromise on troop increase
By Elsa Rassbach

Prior to the Afghanistan Conference in London on Thursday (Jan. 28th), the German government has today announced that it will sending "up to" 500 additional German troops to Afghanistan and also "freeing up" 350 more soldiers as a "flexible reserve." The German troops are to pursue a more "defensive approach" that will focus on protecting civilians and training the local security forces.

The German troop increase is far less than the Pentagon wanted. According to today's Reuters article: "The United States and NATO had pressed Berlin to bolster its military presence in Afghanistan by up to 2,500 troops."

In Germany, the Parliament (Bundestag) votes each year on whether to continue the mandate for German troops in Afghanistan. The present parliamentary mandate is for 4500 German troops, and about 4300 troops are actually in Afghanistan. A majority of German citizens have long opposed the German troop deployment to Afghanistan, and parliamentary opposition to renewing the mandate has grown each year.

Now Merkel's government will seek to increase the mandate to allow for the 500 + 350 additional German troops. The vote in the Bundestag on increasing the mandate is expected to take place towards the end of February.

In addition to the demonstrations in London Jan. 27th - 29th and a vigil in Berlin on Jan. 28th for the Afghanistan Conference in London, there will also be a demonstration in Berlin on February 20th prior to the vote in the Bundestag.

German troops are in Afghanistan are part of the NATO-ISAF mission, which has grown since it began in 2003 from 5000 to about 80,000 troops coming from 43 countries, including all 28 NATO members (according to the NATO Web site today). Slightly under half of the total recent foreign troop casualties in Afghanistan have been non-US.

For a more detailed discussion regarding the debates within the German government about the troop increase, see the Jan. 7th and 25th Spiegel articles (in English):

The campaign to end the war and occupation of Afghanistan is truly international, but we have yet to build adequate forums, such as in the internet, to bring these struggles more together.

In the US, the media will no doubt try to "spin" the German reluctance as being a matter of Germany being lazy, cowardly, or not willing to do its share. It would possibly be useful to try to convey to the U.S. public some of the more substantive reasons that Germans oppose the war and occupation of Afghanistan.

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