Germany OKs mission, Hollande visits carrier
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, right, talk during a meeting of the German Federal Parliament, Bundestag, at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Dec. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)Lawmakers on Dec. 4 approved plans for Germany to take on a direct role in the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria, answering France’s appeal for help after the deadly Paris terror attacks.
The German Parliament, the Bundestag, agreed on Dec. 4 to the mandate for the deployment of six Tornado reconnaissance jets, which have no offensive fighter capability and are specialized in air-to-ground reconnaissance, a frigate to aid the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the Mediterranean, and a total of around 1,200 troops. The Bundestag passed the mandate with an overwhelming majority of 445 votes in favor and 146 against.
A German frigate will be deployed to protect the Charles de Gaulle, from which French fighter jets are carrying out bombing runs, and the tanker aircraft could refuel them mid-air to extend their range.
A date has not been set for the deployment, which is estimated to cost 134 million euros ($142 million), although Germany and Turkey were already working this week toward a deal to station the Tornados at the İncirlik air base in southern Turkey.
The voting at the Bundestag came a few days after German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet decided to contribute to the fight against ISIL, and a day after German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen visited Ankara to meet her Turkish counterpart İsmet Yılmaz.
The green light for the mission, which could become modern Germany’s biggest ever deployment abroad, comes three weeks after ISIL militants killed 130 people in a series of attacks in Paris.
The atrocities prompted France to invoke a clause requiring European Union states to provide military assistance to wipe out ISIL in Iraq and Syria.
Welcoming the German parliament’s decision, French President Francois Hollande said it is “another example of the solidarity between France and Germany.”
Hollande arrived on Dec. 4 on the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier to meet air crews launching strikes on ISIL militants in Syria and Iraq, an Agence France-Presse journalist said.
“He will meet military personnel taking part in operations to intensify the fight against Daesh in Syria and Iraq,” a statement from the French presidency said earlier in the day, using an acronym for ISIL.
A broad coalition of 60 countries has been battling ISIL since August 2014, although involvement in Syria has been more limited with some Western nations wary of how military action could actually end up serving President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which they view as no longer legitimate.
But reticence seemed to have melted away following the Paris attacks, with Britain becoming the latest country to join the U.S.-led bombing campaign over Syria on Dec. 3, striking an ISIL-held oil field.
After repeatedly ruling out the use of “boots on the ground,” U.S. President Barack Obama also agreed to send as many as 100 special forces to Iraq, with a mandate to carry out raids inside Syria.