By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — The German government on March 7 approved plans to extend the country’s overseas military missions, including in Afghanistan.
The defense bill, which must still be approved by parliament, would raise the maximum number of German troops deployed in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission by one-third to 1,300.
The decision comes as the Western-backed government in Kabul is struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen told broadcaster ARD that the move should be matched with accelerated reforms by the Afghan government.
She also warned that the military’s mission in Afghanistan would likely extend for some time, saying, “We need patience and a long breath, without question.”
Germany has contributed to NATO missions in Afghanistan for the past 17 years.
The German military has its headquarters in Afghanistan in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif and a large base near Kunduz.
Von der Leyen described the German military’s contribution to NATO’s missions in Afghanistan as a “story of progress on the one side, but of course also setbacks,” arguing that the educational opportunities for children, the status of women, health care, and infrastructure in the war-torn country had improved over the years.
But she also said that the Afghan Army was still struggling to keep the country safe.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government also agreed on April 7 to extend the German military’s missions in Iraq, Mali, South Sudan, and the NATO-led Sea Guardian operation in the Mediterranean Sea.
The cabinet meeting was the last before the new coalition government takes over.