German Defense Minister Jung has approved a short-term deployment of 45 German soldiers from their base in northern Afghanistan to the west of the country to help flush out insurgents.
According to German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the troops will be deployed to stop the Taliban and other Afghan insurgents using one of the country’s main roads to travel from the volatile south to carry out attacks in the west and north.
Jung approved the request from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) on Thursday, a spokesman from his ministry said.
He added that the aim of the operation was to flush out insurgents who had infiltrated the Western provinces of Badghis and Faryab. German soldiers will support the Afghan army during the operation as well as a Norwegian rapid reaction force. A further 20 German troops will be on standby to work as part of the MedEvac medical unit for emergency evacuations.
The German defense ministry has said the deployment was part of reconstruction efforts in the region, adding it would help to cement the influence of the central Afghan government in Kabul in remote parts of western Afghanistan. The operation is also aimed at building trust among the population towards the NATO-led ISAF force and Afghan soldiers.
This is not the first time German soldiers have taken part in an operation, the defense ministry spokesman added, the last time being in December 2007.
Under the terms of the mandate approved by German lawmakers, the country’s 3,200 troops based in the comparatively safe north of Afghanistan can take part in operations elsewhere in the country as long as they are of a limited nature.
Germany reluctant to deploy south
Germany has long resisted pressure from NATO allies to deploy troops on a permanent basis to the south of the country where US, British and Canadian soldiers are bearing the brunt of a Taliban insurgency.
There are about 40,000 NATO and 20,000 US-led coalition soldiers in Afghanistan. NATO commanders said at the end of January this year they need about 7,500 more troops to carry out their mission.
In January, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates reportedly sent an “unusually stern” letter to German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung demanding combat troops, helicopters and paratroopers for Afghanistan and charging that some NATO states were not pulling their weight. Southern Afghanistan has seen the worst violence since the Taliban was ousted in the US-led invasion in 2001.
But Germany has rejected the call for troops in battle-ravaged southern Afghanistan, insisting Berlin’s focus on reconstruction efforts in the relatively calm north was justified. Germany has insisted German troops are making headway in stabilizing the north.