Friday 24 November 2017

Germany ready to send more troops to battle Isil

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen.
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen.

Madeline Chambers

Germany may need a bigger army to cope with the more assertive role it has adopted in global missions, the defence minister said yesterday, a day before parliament votes on joining the campaign against Isil militants in Syria.

Building on Germany's growing confidence on the international stage, Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen has shown over the last two years a readiness to commit troops to foreign missions. The army is now deployed in more than a dozen countries in Europe, Asia and Africa. Last year she was a leading proponent of arming Iraqi Kurds fighting Isil, a major departure for Germany. Today's parliamentary vote is a direct response to a French appeal for solidarity after militant attacks in Paris killed 130 people.

With many Western partners welcoming the shift in Germany's attitude away from its post-war reluctance to deploy troops, von der Leyen acknowledged that the range of crises posed demands.

"I would not have imagined two years ago what sort of an abyss we would be staring into," she told reporters at a news conference to explain details about Germany's mission in Syria.

That mission, set to be approved by the Bundestag lower house of parliament today, will include sending six Tornado reconnaissance jets, a frigate to help protect a French aircraft carrier, refuelling aircraft and 1,200 military personnel.

However, Germany will not join its Nato allies the United States, France and Britain, or Russia, in staging airstrikes.

In a sign of the shift in German public opinion, a poll for ARD television yesterday showed 58pc of Germans backed their country's involvement in the campaign against Isil. "It is already clear to me that if the world makes such big demands of us, we must also be open to adjustments in terms of personnel," said von der Leyen, widely seen as a possible successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel.

An analysis into staffing levels and the organisation of combat forces is in progress and will report in a couple of months on whether personnel levels are appropriate, she said.

Merkel's coalition government, comprising her conservatives and the centre-left Social Democrats, has a big parliamentary majority so the plans are sure to pass today.

Irish Independent

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