Germany deploys jets, warship, joins anti-Islamic State coalition

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Berlin (dpa) – Germany decided Thursday it could no longer stay on the sidelines of the fight against Islamic State, announcing plans to send Tornado jets and a warship to aid the new international military alliance set on crushing the Islamic State.

The decision to send between four and six reconnaissance jets along with the carrier was made at a meeting on Thursday of senior ministers in Berlin.

The meeting was called by Chancellor Angela Merkel after she agreed at talks with French President Francois Hollande the night before to step up military help in the international fight to defeat the Islamic State.

The planned military action was a necessary strike against the militant terrorists, Merkel told a meeting of lawmakers from her conservative Christian Democrats and their Bavarian-based Christian Social Union allies.

According to media reports, Paris had wanted the Tornados to provide reconnaissance backup for the French military mission against Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility for a night of terrorist attacks in Paris earlier this month that left 130 dead.

Merkel called the meeting in Berlin – which also included Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel and Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen – to consider Germany’s military role in the planned anti-Islamic State coalition being forged by Hollande.

Staying out of the coalition was not an option for Germany if the country wants to keep the terrorist threat at bay, von der Leyen said.

“Everyone can see that the problems will come our way if we don’t take care of them in a timely fashion,” she said. “If we want to fight terrorism and the reasons people are fleeing, then we have to do so locally.”

But von der Leyen warned it was likely to be a long fight, saying it should be militarily possible to overcome the Islamic State and noting recent defeats the terrorist organization has suffered in Syria and Iraq.

In addition to the jets and warship, Germany agreed to deploy aircraft for the refuelling of coalition fighter jets, as well as to send satellite reconnaissance.

The warship is likely to provide backup to the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which has already been dispatched to the eastern Mediterranean.

Hollande was in Moscow on Thursday for talks with Russian President Vladamir Putin after a series of meetings with world leaders this week to create a new coalition against Islamic State.

Standing alongside Hollande in the Elysee Palace on Wednesday evening, Merkel declared that decisive action was needed to end the global threat posed by Islamic State.

“It’s not possible to fight Islamic State with words: You have to fight them militarily,” Merkel said. “We have to end the talk and act because of the high value we place on security, and this demands decisive action.”

German military involvement in any part of the world is a highly charged political issue as a result of the nation’s past military aggression, in particular during the first half of the last century.

German participation in the coalition would represent only the third time since the end of World War II that the nation’s military forces have joined such a combat mission.

The nation’s Tornado jets were used against Serbian air defences as part of the NATO-led action against Belgrade in 1999 during the Kosovo War.

More recently, members of the German army, the Bundeswehr, joined ground operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Germany also promised this week to send 650 soldiers to the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali.

In so doing, Berlin answered a call from Paris to help relieve French forces fighting Islamists in the West African state so it can turn its attention to Syria and Islamic State.

At the same time, Berlin said it was raising by 50 to 150 the number of German troops sent to help train Kurdish Peshmerga forces, who are battling Islamic State in Iraq.

Up until now, the Kurdish Peshmerga training progamme was Germany’s most important contribution to the struggle against Islamic State.

Merkel’s government still requires parliamentary approval to deploy its military forces in Syria.

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