Germany to send up to 650 troops to NATO mission in Mediterranean

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A new NATO initiative hopes to stop jihadi militants in the Mediterranean Sea. The German military is pitching in to help via major troop commitments to the yearlong mission.

The planned mission will be tasked with the surveillance of the Mediterranean Sea but will also have powers to search vessels suspected of harboring terrorists belonging to groups such as the self-styled “Islamic State.” Operation Sea Guardian also hopes to curb human trafficking and arms smugglers while assisting the European Union’s border agency, Frontex.

Germany is expected to join the NATO operation, and could contributing up to 650 soldiers to the international mission in Mediterranean waters. The government will discuss the plan during a cabinet session on Wednesday. The ruling coalition aims to present a plan to parliament for approval shortly thereafter, presumably later in September 2016.

Operation Sea Guardian is currently intended to last until December 2017.

Greater role for German military

The deployment is regarded as part of a broader shift in Germany to expand its military role in Europe and NATO. Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen has been hoping to update German military equipment and boost troop levels following years of decline.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told parliamentary leaders in a letter that “terrorist organizations can act unimpeded” because of the lack of government surveillance along the Mediterranean coast, highlighting troubled countries such as Libya. He added that this vacuum presented “significant threats to our security”.

NATO members agreed to Operation Sea Guardian at a summit in Poland in July. The new martitime mission is seen as a replacement of NATO’s Active Endeavour mission, which has been in charge of monitoring the Mediterranean Sea since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

Germany’s mandate for being part of Active Endeavour ended on July 15.

ss/blc (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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