Germany rejects US demand to increase Afghan deployment

A bitter diplomatic row between Germany and the United States deepened yesterday after Berlin flatly rejected demands from Washington that it deploy troops in war-torn southern Afghanistan and angrily dismissed the request as "impertinent" and a "fantastic cheek".

Germany currently has some 3,200 soldiers stationed in comparatively tranquil northern Afghanistan and the capital Kabul as part of the current Nato peacekeeping mission. It has been urged to deploy troops in the south before but has consistently refused. Yesterday however, it became clear that Washington had stepped up pressure on Berlin to commit troops to the south.

The move followed increased Taliban attacks and threats from Canada that it would withdraw its Afghanistan contingent completely unless more Nato troops were sent south. Canada has lost 77 combat troops in the region.

Two US non-governmental studies released this week warned that Afghanistan could once again become a failed state and terrorist haven.

Details of what was described as an "unusually stern" letter written by Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, to Franz Josef Jung, his German counterpart, were leaked to the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper yesterday.

The letter described Germany's performance as "disappointing" and asked it to consider a new Afghanistan mandate which would enable its paratroopers and helicopter units to be sent to the south of the country. It said the US wanted German soldiers to help replace an American contingent of 2,200 troops which is to be withdrawn this autumn.

Germany's response was a mixture of outrage and surprise. Initial comments leaked from an unnamed defence ministry source described the Gates' letter as "impertinent", and as a "fantastic cheek". One official accused Mr Gates of trying to inflict "psychological torture" on Germany.

Chancellor Angela Merkel let it be known through her spokesman that the issue was "not up for discussion". Franz-Walter Steinmeier, the German Foreign minister, also flatly rejected the idea. "I think we must continue to focus our attention on the north," he said.

Mr Jung later justified the German position insisting that there were "clear regional divisions" regarding troop deployment in Afghanistan. "Our current mandate only allows for German soldiers to be sent to the south in emergencies," he said. The issue is expected to come to a head next week when Nato defence ministers meet in Lithuania to discuss Afghanistan. Social Democrat MPs in Ms Merkel's conservative-led grand coalition government also argued strongly against the idea of sending troops south. Rainer Arnold, the party's defence spokesman, warned that the idea risked undermining the already shaky public support for Germany's entire Afghanistan mission.

"I cannot see broad acceptance for this idea coming from parliament or from the public", he said "This is a precondition for our continued presence in Afghanistan." Germany's presence in the relatively peaceful north of Afghanistan is already unpopular. An opinion poll last year suggested that more than 50 per cent of Germans wanted a complete withdrawal of troops. Ms Merkel's government is currently facing opposition to plans to deploy a 200-strong unit of combat forces in the north to replace a Norwegian unit which is currently policing the region.

Germany has already been afforded a special Nato caveat which in effective prohibits its troops from going on the offensive unless they are first attacked. At next Thursday's Nato summit in Vilnius, Germany is expected to come under intense pressure to lift the caveat.

Several German commentators attacked the government for rejecting the American request. The left-leaning Süddeutsche Zeitung accused politicians of being afraid of the voters.

* The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, will visit London next week to discuss strategy on Afghanistan, Iran and other issues with the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband. Ms Rice, who arrives on Wednesday, will also meet the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
News
videoWatch Lynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance
Sport
A view of today's Spanish papers
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
The last great picture - Winner 'Black and White' and overall 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'
art
News
people

Sport
sportAtlanta Falcons can't count and don't know what the UK looks like
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg
music

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

News
The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions
News
news

Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 pose for Children in Need 2001
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand has written a book of political analysis called Revolution
books

Review: Witty banalities aside, the comedian has an authentic voice

Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
News
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee
people

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Support Analyst - London - £22,000

£20000 - £22000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chel...

Learning Support Assistants-Nantwich area

£8 - £9 per hour: Randstad Education Chester: We are currently recruiting for ...

Primary Teachers-Northwich area

£85 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Primary Teachers- Northwich Ar...

Primary Teachers-Northwich area

£85 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Primary Teachers- Northwich Ar...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London