German cabinet approves military aid for fight against IS group
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The German cabinet on Tuesday approved a mandate offering military assistance to back the international fight against the Islamic State jihadist group following the Paris attacks.
The package, which still requires parliamentary approval, covers Tornado reconnaissance jets, a naval frigate and up to 1,200 troops following a French request, the government said in a statement.
"The German contribution serves the fight against terrorism under the auspices of the alliance against IS and is aimed at supporting in particular France, Iraq and the international alliance in its fight against IS," the mandate says.
The mandate is for one year at a cost of 134 million euros ($142 million) and can be extended in 2016.
By providing for up to 1,200 soldiers for aerial reconnaissance and support, it would be the largest Bundeswehr mission at the moment, following a drawdown in Afghanistan.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier acknowledged ahead of the cabinet vote that it could be a protracted fight.
"We are doing what is militarily necessary, what we can do best, and what we can back politically," Steinmeier told the daily Bild. "We need patience against an enemy like IS."
The head of the armed forces union, the Bundeswehrverband, Andre Wuestner, told public broadcaster ARD that he expected the fight to last "far more than 10 years" and called for a "clearly defined mission".
No date has been set for the parliamentary vote but approval is considered virtually guaranteed as Chancellor Angela Merkel's "grand coalition" government has an overwhelming majority.
Germany is to send an unspecified number of Tornado aircraft fitted with surveillance technology that can take high-resolution photos and infrared images, even at night and in bad weather.
A German frigate will help protect the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the eastern Mediterranean, from which fighter jets are carrying out bombing runs, and the tanker aircraft could refuel them mid-air to extend their range.
The German soldiers would focus on logistics and reconnaissance as part of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
Parliament will also be asked to approve provisions for emergency medical assistance for France in the case of "catastrophic events", and a still-to-be-determined amount of additional humanitarian aid for refugees and displaced people in Syria, Iraq and neighbouring countries.