Saturday, February 9, 2008

Germany to boost Afghan troop contingent - report

MUNICH, Germany (Reuters) - Germany is planning to boost troop numbers in Afghanistan and broaden their operation base to deflect U.S. pressure to send German forces to the more dangerous south, Der Spiegel reported on Saturday.

The German government -- a fragile coalition of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and Social Democrats (SPD) -- needs to balance demands from NATO partners and pressure from voters who are opposed to further German committments in Afghanistan.

In a country where images of Germans fighting abroad still stir unease among many people mindful of the horrors of World War Two, surveys show more than 80 percent of voters say German soldiers should not take part in combat.

But NATO partners have increased the pressure.

Apart from the United States and Britain, who are urging other NATO members to share more of the combat burden in southern Afghanistan, Canada has threatened to pull its troops out unless other allies come forward. And Poland's foreign minister has warned against "free-riding" in the alliance.

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