Germany to keep 850 troops in Afghanistan
Berlin: Germany will keep around 850 troops in Afghanistan when it winds up its 13-year-long combat mission in the war-torn country later this year as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
The German cabinet yesterday gave its mandate for the armed forces' participation in the NATO's follow-up programme called Resolute Support Mission (RSM), which is intended to train the Afghan security forces as well as to provide advisory services and other support.
It will come into force after the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, passes a legislation.
Germany's participation is initially set for one year.
A major part of around 1,500 German soldiers currently stationed in northern Afghanistan, their main operational hub during the last 13 years, will be pulled out before the ISAF mission ends on December 31.
The soldiers still remaining there will become part of the RSM, which is scheduled to start its operation on January 1, the defence ministry said.
The overall strength of the NATO forces in Afghanistan will be reduced to around 12,000 troops from the present level of 34,000 troops.
Besides the NATO member-nations, 14 other countries also will participate in the new mission.
An agreement signed by the NATO and Afghanistan's new government on September 30 forms the basis for the RSM and for Germany's continued engagement in that country, the ministry said in a statement.
Northern Afghanistan will continue to be the main operational area of German soldiers in the follow-up mission and there they will work together with participants from around other 20 nations, the statement said.
Even though RSM is a "non-combat mission", its mandate allows deployment of German soldiers to protect civilians and military personnel and authorises them to engage in fighting if their safety is threatened.