German Cabinet OKs military mission against IS in Syria

Posted at 7:31 AM, Dec 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-01 10:23:52-05

BERLIN (AP) — The German Cabinet on Tuesday approved plans to commit up to 1,200 soldiers to support the international coalition fighting against the Islamic State group in Syria.

The mandate still requires parliamentary clearance. Chancellor Angela Merkel's governing coalition has a huge majority and approval looks assured in a vote that, according to senior lawmakers from her conservative bloc, is likely on Friday.

Following the Paris attacks, Merkel agreed to honor a request from France to provide support for its operations against IS in Syria.

Germany plans to send Tornado reconnaissance and tanker aircraft to the region, as well as a frigate to help protect the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the eastern Mediterranean, but won't actively engage in combat.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the daily Bild that he doesn't expect Germany to have 1,200 soldiers participating at any one time. He said that figure is an upper limit which, as is customary with military mandates, includes a significant "safety buffer."

"We are doing what is militarily needed, what we can do best and can accept politically," he said.

Left-leaning opposition parties in Parliament are deeply skeptical. Simone Peter, a leader of the Greens, questioned whether there is sufficient legal basis for the deployment and pointed to the absence of a clear U.N. mandate.

"The legal question is not the only one," Peter told ARD television. "We say clearly that this deployment also has no political aim, no political concept, and so it is irresponsible."

The German military's biggest current foreign deployment is in NATO's Resolute Support training mission in Afghanistan, where it has just under 1,000 troops. It had some 5,000 soldiers there at the height of the previous combat mission.

Germany also plans to increase its involvement in Mali, where it currently has just over 200 soldiers.