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German, Dutch troops head to Kabul

The Emden is one of two frigates playing a part in Germany's contribution to the Afghan force
The Emden is one of two frigates playing a part in Germany's contribution to the Afghan force  

BERLIN, Germany -- The first contingent of 70 German troops is due to arrive in Afghanistan to join the international stabilisation force.

The German troops -- 50 paratroopers and 20 communications and medical experts -- left Cologne-Bonn airport for the Dutch city of Eindhoven, on Tuesday.

They are due to join 32 Dutch troops for the journey onward to Kabul, via Trabzon in northern Turkey.

The Dutch Defence Ministry said the first of two planes carrying the soldiers would arrive at Bagram Air Base near Kabul on Wednesday morning.

The British-led peacekeeping force is charged with keeping security under the interim Afghan government led by Hamid Karzai, which is to run the country for six months.

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German Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping has yet to decide how many German troops will participate in the United Nations force.

Parliament has approved a maximum of 1,200 German soldiers.

While none have been involved in combat missions, German planes have carried supplies to Afghanistan.

Six German navy ships last week set off to patrol seas off the Horn of Africa.

Two frigates and four support ships carrying about 750 marines are being sent to protect shipping and cut off any routes used by terror groups.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in his new year's address that the country had a duty to help to 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 against sending German troops.

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

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 peacekeepers will work alongside Afghan police.


• More troops head to Afghanistan
January 7, 2002
• Terror fight force boosted
December 22, 2001
• UK troops escort Afghan officials
December 22, 2001

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