No plan now to boost German troops in Afghanistan

Germany’s Defence Ministry denied a radio report yesterday that it was considering raising the number of troops it can send to Afghanistan, but did not rule out a change in the size of the mandate later this year.
Deutschlandfunk radio had reported earlier that the government was considering lifting the mandate for its contingency in Afghanistan to 7000 from 4500.
“The number mentioned on the radio is arbitrary speculation which we deny,” said a spokesperson for the Defence Ministry.
Noting that a new German government had not yet been formed after Sunday’s election, he said it was impossible to know what would happen under an expected centre-right coalition of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the Free Democrats.
However, the Bundestag lower house of parliament has to vote to extend the troops’ mandate by December 13.
“The new parliament will look at the mandate by December 13 as part of that, a new upper limit will be named and today we don’t know what this will be,” he said.
“Until that happens, the current mandate of 4500 applies.”
The radio report, citing no sources, said such a move would boost Germany’s leverage at an international conference on Afghanistan, expected either later this year or early next year, to discuss the transfer of security to Afghan forces.
Rising violence in Afghanistan has raised questions among participants of the NATO mission over strategy. US President Barack Obama heard opinions from top advisers on Wednesday on how to reverse the deteriorating war as part of a sweeping strategy review that could lead to more US troops.
Opinion is divided there on whether to bolster forces or take an alternative path.
The majority of the German public wants the government to bring troops back from Afghanistan.
Both Merkel, who has just won a second term in office, and the FDP, with whom she is about to start coalition talks, are committed to the mission but Merkel has made clear she wants to discuss the gradual handover of security to Afghan forces.
European defence ministers expressed reluctance earlier this week to send more troops to the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan and several states said they wanted to focus resources and efforts on training the Afghan military and police.

Pic: Troops in Afganistan