Germany to Add 500 Troops in Afghanistan

Jan. 26 (Bloomberg) — Germany will send 500 additional troops to Afghanistan as part of a refocused strategy in the north of the country, Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

The extra troops will focus on protecting the civilian population as well as training Afghan forces to help President Hamid Karzai’s government assume more responsibility for security, Merkel said. No deadline has been set for German troops to pull out, she said.

“Our aim is an Afghanistan that stops the Taliban and terrorists from posing a threat to Afghans as well as to ourselves,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin today.

Merkel outlined the government’s position before an international conference on Afghanistan to be held in London on Jan. 28. Merkel, who won’t attend the conference and will send Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in her place, is due to hold talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Berlin later today when he stops off on his way to the U.K.

Germany has been under increased pressure from NATO and its allies to deploy more combat troops to the north of the country following President Barack Obama’s decision to send 30,000 additional soldiers. The mission has become more unpopular as violence in the region increases, underscored by a German- ordered airstrike in Kunduz province in September that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization says killed as many as 142 civilians.

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Bundestag Approval

Merkel, who briefed party leaders on her plans earlier today, is scheduled to give a statement tomorrow in the lower house of parliament, or Bundestag, on the country’s strategy in Afghanistan. Lawmakers have mandated a maximum of 4,500 troops in Afghanistan and any increase requires a vote in parliament.

Richard Holbrooke, U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said on WDR television yesterday that Germany’s contribution in Afghanistan is a “vital, indispensable part” of the international effort.

“We are fighting on behalf of the Afghan people to help them get rid of the Taliban and to battle al-Qaeda, which poses a direct threat to both Germany and the U.S.,” he said.