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Germany to extend Afghanistan mission: sources

world Updated: Nov 18, 2009 16:11 IST
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Germany's cabinet decided on Wednesday to extend by one year the mandate for its unpopular military mission in Afghanistan, government sources told AFP.

The extension to the deployment, which has seen German soldiers engaged alongside NATO and US forces in the army's heaviest fighting since World War II, must now be approved by parliament before the mandate expires in December.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's new coalition government had already agreed to extend the mandate in their government programme drawn up after elections in September.

Germany currently has around 4,300 troops in Afghanistan, based in the relatively peaceful north of the country, which has become more violent in recent months.

The German contingent is the third-biggest in a 100,000-strong international force including 65,000 under NATO command but Berlin has come under pressure from its allies to send more troops for a counter-insurgency push.

On Friday, Berlin announced it would send an extra 120 troops to the northern province of Kunduz in mid-January.

However, Chancellor Angela Merkel has refused to even consider sending more before an international conference in early 2010 on the war. Germany's troops levels are currently capped at 4,500.

The mission is deeply unpopular at home.

The cabinet also decided to scrap a mission to send AWACS surveillance planes to Afghanistan after Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan refused to allow NATO to fly them through their airspace.

The German army's participation in a mission to fight piracy off the coast of Lebanon was also extended by six months.

Merkel and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle were due to make a statement on army deployment around 2:00 pm (1300 GMT).