Berlin: Germany`s government on Wednesday
approved a one-year extension to the country`s troop
deployment in Afghanistan and underlined its hopes of
beginning a gradual withdrawal in late 2011.
The mandate approved by the Cabinet allows for a
maximum deployment of 5,350 German soldiers - a figure that
Parliament will vote January 28 and is expected to
give it a comfortable majority. The biggest opposition party
already has signalled its support.
All German deployments abroad require parliamentary
approval, typically on a yearly basis. The new mandate will
last until the end of January 2012.
"With this mandate, we are setting the course so that
we can, for the first time, begin reducing the presence of the
Bundeswehr at the end of 2011," Foreign Minister Guido
"This timetable is not an end in itself but has a
clear aim - namely, also to generate discipline and ambition
so that the Afghan government, for example, also does its job
and we can then, in 2014, be in a position to do entirely
without German combat troops," Westerwelle said.
Germany currently has 4,570 soldiers in northern
Afghanistan, a region that was long relatively calm but has
seen a rise in violence over the past two years. The Afghan
mission has become increasingly unpopular at home.