Germany may review Afghan troop levels in 2010

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Germany is likely to stick with its 4500 troop ceiling for Afghanistan when it renews a parliamentary mandate in December but could review that number in early 2010, Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said.
 
Speaking on the margins of a NATO meeting in Bratislava, Jung said the German government would take a new look at troop numbers after a planned conference on Afghanistan that is expected early next year.
 
Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called last month for the conference, which is expected to set targets for transferring security responsibilities to Afghan authorities.
 
"I am operating under the assumption that the final decision (on the troop numbers) will be taken after the Afghanistan conference," Jung said.
 
The current parliamentary mandate for German troops expires in December and must be renewed by a new centre-right government that is expected to take power next week.
 
Germany currently has about 4250 troops in Afghanistan, mostly in the north, where attacks by Taliban fighters have risen as they try to reclaim former strongholds.
 
NATO’s Afghan mission consists of 65 000 US troops and about 39 000 from allied nations.
 
Berlin has resisted pressure from the United States in past years to divert its troops to violent southern areas.
 
US President Barack Obama is considering a call by the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, for tens of thousands of additional soldiers.