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German troop deaths up in Afghanistan in 2009


Berlin : German military deaths in Afghanistan rose in 2009 compared with a year ago, the defense ministry confirmed Thursday a report published by the top-selling daily Bild.

Five troops died in the war-stricken country this year, two more than 2008.

Four soldiers were killed in combat action, while another one lost his life in a traffic accident.

German forces faced a total of 77 attacks in Afghanistan in 2009 of which 71 assaults took place in the region of Kunduz where German troops are deployed as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

Some 13,900 German soldiers served in Afghanistan this year, up 1,700 from 2008.

The German parliamentary mandate allows the stationing of up to 4,500 troops in Afghanistan.

The US and other key NATO allies have stepped up their pressure for more soldiers from Germany, which has the third largest military contingent in the war-ravaged country.

There are reportedly strong reservations within the German government to deploy more troops in the war-stricken country amid US calls for additional German military forces.

Berlin has repeatedly made clear it would await the outcome of the January 28 London meeting before committing more soldiers to Afghanistan.

The Afghanistan conference will aim to pave the ground for a gradual transfer of security responsibilities to Afghan control.

The conference, originally proposed by the leaders of Britain, France and Germany, could offer a glimpse of an exit strategy for NATO countries by setting out a roadmap for Afghan forces gradually to take over more security responsibilities.

That could ease the pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel who has faced strong criticism at home over the September 4 massacre of dozens of Afghan civilians in the German-ordered NATO airstrike in Kunduz.