German cabinet approves ISIS mission in Syria

2015-12-01 15:32
ISIS fighters (File, AP)

ISIS fighters (File, AP)

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Berlin - German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet approved on Tuesday sending up to 1 200 troops to support the international military campaign to defeat Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria.

The one-year, €134m mission will not involve conducting airstrikes in Syria. Tornado fighter jets, a warship and aircraft for refuelling combat jets will be deployed.

The frigate is expected to provide backup to the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which has already been sent to the eastern Mediterranean as part of the anti-Islamic State coalition.

The decision by Berlin, which has been reticent to engage in military operations since World War II, comes in the wake of the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people and was claimed by Islamic State.

Since then, Merkel has pledged to provide any assistance to France, which has spearheaded efforts to forge the new coalition. France is Germany's chief ally.

"This is not a war mission, but a sign of solidarity with France," said Gerda Hasselfeldt, who is a parliamentary leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian-based allies of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU).  

The mission is expected to receive the green light from the German Parliament, where the CDU-CSU and their Social Democratic (SPD) coalition partners have an overwhelming majority.

The mission's mandate can be extended next year but only with the approval of parliament.

"We are doing what is militarily necessary, what we can do best, and what we can back politically," German Foreign Minister Steinmeier told the daily Bild ahead of the cabinet meeting.

"We need patience against an enemy like Islamic State," said Steinmeier, who is a member of the SPD.

German involvement in any part of the world is a highly charged issue in the country as a result of the nation's military aggression during the first half of the last century.

Minority support

A survey drawn up by pollsters YouGov for dpa showed 71% of Germans fear the mission to support the anti-Islamic State coalition increases the risk of Germany becoming a terrorist target.

Still, 45% of those responding to the YouGov survey backed the mission, while 39 per cent were opposed.

The opposition hard left Die Linke party and the environmentalist Greens have both sharply criticised the German military in Syria.  

Berlin also said last week it plans to increase the number of troops it has sent to the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali from a token 10 to 650.

In doing so, Germany answered a call from Paris to help relieve French forces fighting Islamists in the West African nation so as to free it up for the fight against Islamic State.

At the same time, Berlin said it was raising by 50 to 150 the number of German troops sent to help train Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Iraq, who are battling Islamic State.

Up until now, the Kurdish Peshmerga training progamme was Germany's most important contribution to the struggle against the militant terrorist group.

Read more on:    isis  |  germany  |  syria

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