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. Germany to extend troops' mandate in 'war on terror'
BERLIN (AFP) Nov 02, 2005
The outgoing German cabinet agreed on Wednesday to extend the mandate of the country's troops in the US-led "Operation Enduring Freedom" by a year from November 15, a spokesman said.

But it has simultaneously decided to reduce the maximum number of Bundeswehr soldiers available for deployment abroad, according to the defence ministry.

"We will reduce the number of men from 3,100 to 2,800. This is not a sign of decreased commitment to international engagement" but due to the withdrawal of reconnaissance aircraft for modernisation, a defence ministry spokesman said.

The extension of the mandate is expected to be approved by the incoming parliament next week.

The cabinet voted to prolong the mandate during its last formal sitting before a new left-right coalition government under conservative leader Angela Merkel takes power later this month.

At the moment Germany has only 320 troops deployed abroad with Enduring Freedom.

Some 220, most of them marines, are stationed in the Horn of Africa and the Mediterranean as part of maritime monitoring operations while some 100 elite KSK troops are deployed in Afghanistan, where a US-led force is involved in frontline combat with Taliban fighters.

The deployment ceiling of 2,800 soldiers is intended to allow Berlin to react quickly to an immediate, heightened international terrorist threat.

Germany decided to commit troops to "Operation Enduring Freedom" in 2001 in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

At the time outgoing Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder submitted himself to a vote of confidence in parliament to discipline coalition rebels opposed to committing troops.

Berlin and Washington are currently at odds over the mission as the German government is resisting US efforts to mesh "Operation Enduring Freedom" and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, to which Germany has contributed some 2,250 soldiers.

Berlin wants to maintain a clear division between peacekeeping and combat operations.

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