FRANKFURT – Germany could send 1,200 soldiers to the Middle East by the end of the year to provide service support to planes and ships of an anti-Islamic State coalition, Germany’s top defence official told a newspaper on Sunday.
Chancellor Angela Merkel promised to support the offensive against Islamic State during recent talks with French President Francois Hollande, who called for more countries to help fight the militants after the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris.
The plan, which still needs approval from parliament and was outlined by Germany’s Chief of Defence Volker Wieker (pictured above) in the Bild am Sonntag, did not include direct involvement in the coalition’s air offensive.
In Germany, the public still dislikes sending forces overseas except for in peace missions, in part due to memories of Nazi militarism.
A German frigate would accompany France’s Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, whose planes will refuel the jets of coalition, Wieker said in the interview.
“From a military point of view for the servicing of the planes and ships, about 1,200 soldiers would be necessary,” Wieker told the newspaper.
He said he hoped to obtain the necessary mandate by the end of the year.
Wieker also said Germany was in talks with Jordan and Turkey about stationing Tornado aircraft for reconnaissance in the region.
A senior German lawmaker said last week that Germany would deploy the reconnaissance jets to support France in the fight against Islamic State militants in Syria.
German officials said that Merkel saw a bigger German role as the price to pay for Hollande’s support in tackling the refugee crisis in Europe.
(Reporting By John O’Donnell; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)