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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Germany in radical shake-up of military

Germany will on Wednesday adopt the most radical restructuring of its military since 1945, turning the Bundeswehr into an international intervention force, according to an internal cabinet strategy paper obtained by the Financial Times.

The paper, which will be endorsed at a special cabinet meeting in the defence ministry, is the product of a review – the first of its kind since 1994 – begun by Angela Merkel, chancellor, after she won office last November. It will see Germany’s military officially abandon its primary postwar task of defending the country’s borders in favour of a more robust role for German troops on international missions.

The military’s most sensitive international deployment since the second world war came this month when the German navy took control of patrolling Lebanese waters to stop weapons smugglers. The military has taken part in other international missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo, for example, but has largely avoided direct involvement in war zones.

The 133-page strategy paper argues that the capacity of the Bundeswehr must be expanded to allow for the deployment of a total of 14,000 troops to five international missions simultaneously.

This will be achieved by drawing troops previously deployed on national defence into units involved in staffing or supporting overseas missions.

The Bundeswehr has about 250,000 military personnel, including about 50,000 conscripts. About 9,000 troops are currently overseas in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Congo and elsewhere.

The paper confirms conscription will be retained.

Henning Riecke, European security specialist at Berlin’s DGAP foreign policy institute, said the paper will “give German policymakers a way of handing increasing international pressure to join overseas missions”.

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