German Defense Minister Franz-Josef Jung has announced plans to add an additional 1,000 soldiers by the end of this year to the 3,500-strong German contingent already in Afghanistan.
The move reportedly would include deploying German soldiers to southern Afghanistan and, if approved by parliament, would appear to signal heightened resolve on the part of some NATO members to take the Afghan conflict seriously.
Speaking alongside German military chief Wolfgang Schneiderhan, Jung also recommended extending the mandate of German troops in Afghanistan through December 2009. Jung said the "increase is necessary to give us more flexibility to respond to challenges."
Germany assumes command on July 1 of the rapid deployment forces protecting operations of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in northern Afghanistan.
The announcement follows calls by NATO countries, especially the United States, for Germany to contribute more soldiers to the NATO-led force in Afghanistan. The alliance also wants to move some of the German troops from their bases in the relatively peaceful north of Afghanistan to the restive south, where there has been fierce fighting with Taliban insurgents for months.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has backed the idea of sending additional troops to Afghanistan but not of sending German soldiers to southeastern areas of Afghanistan.
A German troop increase requires the approval of the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, which would have to overcome the objections of several opposition parties who are critical of the mission as well as growing public skepticism over that country's role in Afghanistan.
There are currently some 60,000 foreign troops supporting operations by the fledgling Afghan national army. About 43,000 of those foreign troops are under NATO command, and the rest are U.S.-led troops operating under U.S. command. Last weekend, German NATO General Egon Ramms said the alliance needs to add 5,000-6,000 troops to cope with increasing efforts by Taliban and foreign terrorist forces.
Troops from the United States, Britain, Canada, and the Netherlands have done the majority of the fighting in southern Afghanistan.
compiled from wire reports