HAMBURG, Germany: Germany’s center-left Social Democrats on Saturday endorsed the country’s continued participation in the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom against terrorism, even as rising violence in Afghanistan fuels public skepticism.
Delegates at a conference of the party — which forms half of conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing coalition — approved a motion that also calls on the government to examine whether the operation could be put under a specific U.N. mandate.
German military deployments abroad require parliamentary approval, typically renewed on an annual basis.
The Operation Enduring Freedom mandate — last renewed in November 2006 — currently allows for Germany to deploy up to 1,800 troops, including 100 special forces soldiers. The elite KSK unit has served in Afghanistan under the mandate, though details of its operations are kept secret.
Some 250 regular troops are serving as part of Enduring Freedom, participating in naval patrols of shipping off the Horn of Africa.
Amid rising violence in Afghanistan and concern over civilian casualties, polls this year have indicated that there is mounting skepticism over military involvement in Afghanistan. The opposition Left party has appealed to pacifists with calls for the withdrawal of German troops.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told fellow Social Democrats that, if Germany withdrew, “we would leave people at the mercy of the Taliban again.”
Earlier this month, German lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to continue the country’s involvement in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Germany has some 3,000 troops serving largely in Afghanistan’s relatively calm north, as well as six Tornado reconnaissance jets.
Parliament is expected to vote in November on Operation Enduring Freedom.