News Briefs – December 2, 2015


German Cabinet OKs military mission against IS in Syria

The German Cabinet Dec. 1 approved plans to commit up to 1,200 soldiers to support the international coalition fighting against the Islamic State group in Syria.
The mandate still requires parliamentary clearance. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing coalition has a huge majority and approval looks assured in a vote that, according to senior lawmakers from her conservative bloc, is likely Dec. 4.
Following the Paris attacks, Merkel agreed to honor a request from France to provide support for its operations against IS in Syria.
Germany plans to send Tornado reconnaissance and tanker aircraft to the region, as well as a frigate to help protect the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the eastern Mediterranean, but won’t actively engage in combat.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the daily Bild that he doesn’t expect Germany to have 1,200 soldiers participating at any one time. He said that figure is an upper limit which, as is customary with military mandates, includes a significant “safety buffer.”
“We are doing what is militarily needed, what we can do best and can accept politically,” he said.
Left-leaning opposition parties in Parliament are deeply skeptical. Simone Peter, a leader of the Greens, questioned whether there is sufficient legal basis for the deployment and pointed to the absence of a clear U.N. mandate.
“The legal question is not the only one,” Peter told ARD television. “We say clearly that this deployment also has no political aim, no political concept, and so it is irresponsible.”
The German military’s biggest current foreign deployment is in NATO’s Resolute Support training mission in Afghanistan, where it has just under 1,000 troops. It had some 5,000 soldiers there at the height of the previous combat mission.
Germany also plans to increase its involvement in Mali, where it currently has just over 200 soldiers.

Diplomats: NATO to invite Montenegro to join alliance

Diplomats say NATO foreign ministers are expected to invite the small Adriatic Sea country of Montenegro into the military alliance despite the objection of Russia.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says Montenegro’s accession is among several topics as top diplomats from its 28 member states meet Dec. 1 and 2 in Brussels. He said ministers will also discuss plans to beef up the air defenses of Turkey, future funding for Afghan forces and injecting “predictability” in NATO relations with an increasingly assertive Russia.
Stoltenberg said a decision on a formal invitation to Montenegro will come Dec. 2, but two NATO diplomats said it’s a done deal. Russia has warned Montenegro that its joining NATO would be regarded as a provocation.
NATO last expanded in 2009 when Albania and Croatia joined. AP