German cabinet approves military mission against IS in Syria
Published 01/12/2015 | 10:46
The German cabinet has approved plans to commit up to 1,200 soldiers to support the international coalition fighting against the Islamic State group in Syria.
The mandate, which requires parliamentary approval, was endorsed by ministers on Tuesday, it was reported.
It is not yet clear when lawmakers will consider it, but Chancellor Angela Merkel's governing coalition has a large majority and approval looks assured.
Following the Paris attacks, Ms Merkel agreed to honour a request from France to provide support for its operations against IS in Syria.
Germany plans to send reconnaissance aircraft, tanker planes and a warship to the region in support roles, but will not actively engage in combat.
Foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that he does not expect Germany to have 1,200 soldiers participating at any one time.
He said that figure is an upper limit which, as is customary with military mandates, includes a significant "safety buffer."
"We are doing what is militarily needed, what we can do best and can accept politically," he said.
But left-leaning opposition parties in Parliament appear sceptical. Simone Peter, a leader of the Greens, questioned whether there is sufficient legal basis for the deployment and pointed to the absence of a clear UN mandate.
"The legal question is not the only one," Mr Peter told ARD television. "We say clearly that this deployment also has no political aim, no political concept, and so it is irresponsible."
The German military's biggest current foreign deployment is in Nato's Resolute Support training mission in Afghanistan, where it has just under 1,000 troops. It had some 5,000 soldiers there at the height of the previous combat mission.
Germany also plans to increase its involvement in Mali, where it currently has just over 200 soldiers.