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Germany angry over USA demands for troop deployment in S. Afghanistan

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Berlin, Feb 1, IRNA
Germany-US-Afghanistan
Germany's Defense Ministry has voiced anger over the sending of a "stern" letter by US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates who has called for the deployment of German troops in southern Afghanistan, the weekly Der Spiegel news magazine reported Friday.

Gates' eight-page letter demanded 3,200 German troops, including combat forces, helicopters and parachutists, to replace US counter- insurgency soldiers later this year to battle Taliban and al-Qaeda forces, the paper added.

German Defense Ministry circles branded Gates' rather undiplomatic letter an "impertinence".

Meanwhile, the Munich-based Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported Friday that German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung responded to Gates' demands with a similarly "direct and stern" letter.

Berlin has faced intense pressure in recent months from its NATO allies, notably the US, Britain and Canada, to expand its military presence into southern Afghanistan where NATO forces are battling a revitalized Taliban insurgency.

Earlier this week, NATO made an official request to the German Defense Ministry to send extra combat troops to Afghanistan as part of a Quick Reaction Force (QRF), only hours after German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung arrived in the Afghan capital Kabul for a surprise visit.

A spokesman for the German Defense Ministry confirmed that NATO had made such a request but did not reveal any further details.

Berlin has signalled it was ready to deploy a 250-men QRF to Afghanistan to replace a Norwegian unit in July.

The QRF is mandated within the rules of engagement of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), according to the German Defense Ministry.

At least 21 German soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since January 2002.

Around 3,500 German soldiers are presently based in northern Afghanistan and in and around Kabul as part of the ISAF mission.

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