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More troops head to Afghanistan

Chancellor Schroeder received backing for German troops to be deployed
Chancellor Schroeder received backing for German troops to be deployed  

BERLIN, Germany -- German, British and Dutch troops are to join the international presence in Afghanistan.

The first 70 German and 30 Dutch soldiers will fly from Cologne to join British and French troops already in the country on Tuesday, German Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping told a news conference.

Britain is set to send up to 30 additional British Marines to Bagram the British Ministry of Defence confirmed on Sunday.

They are due to arrive in Afghanistan early Sunday, and will join about 300 soldiers currently serving at Bagram airport.

"They are performing a range of tasks including patrols and repairing airfields," the MOD spokesman added.

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Germany has promised up to 1,200 troops for the peace force sparking debate domestically about the role of its armed forces on foreign soil.

3,900 soldiers were offered for use in combat. They have not been needed but it was still the first time since World War II that German troops had been approved for action abroad.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in his new year's address that the country had a duty to help bring an era of peace to other parts of the world.

The peacekeeping deployment received widespread cross-party support in the upper and lower chambers of the German parliament.

But several members of the Greens, Schroeder's junior partner, abstained on the ballot, while the former East German communists, the smallest parliamentary group, voted solidly against sending German troops.

The Netherlands has offered up to 200 for the stability force and will be under the command of the German battalion.

Britain is leading the U.N. mandated peace force, which will eventually be made up of about 4,500 soldiers from 16 nations, with General John McColl in overall command of the operation.

The international force will do some work to repair Afghanistan's nearly nonexistent infrastructure, such as restoring the Kabul airport.

But its main objective will be to provide security in Kabul, where they will work alongside Afghan police.


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