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German Parliament Extends Afghan Mission

September 28, 2005

BERLIN (AP) _ Germany’s outgoing parliament voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to keep its troops in Afghanistan for another year.

The 535-14 vote also raises the maximum number of German troops allowed in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan to 3,000, up from 2,250.

The expansion is designed to have German soldiers shoulder more responsibility in northern Afghanistan.

``We must, and we want to, continue to stand by the Afghans,″ Defense Minister Peter Struck said before the vote.

``Without ISAF, the country would without doubt face the danger in the coming years of falling back into a state of instability and disintegration,″ Struck added. That could bring ``new dangers″ from resurgent militants, he said.

In a ZDF television interview earlier Tuesday, Struck said the Germans would give Afghanistan logistical support in fighting the drug trade. But ``German soldiers will not engage in a direct fight against drug traders,″ Struck added.

Since the end of 2001, 17 German soldiers have died in Afghanistan.

The current mandate for the German mission expires on Oct. 13 _ before the parliament elected in September is convened.

About 20,000 American soldiers are in Afghanistan as part of a 21,000-member U.S.-led coalition. There is a separate force of 11,000 NATO-commanded peacekeepers.

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