BERLIN Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder narrowly survived a no-confidence vote yesterday over his decision to send troops to aid the Afghanistan war effort, as Japanese, British, French and Turkish troops prepared for action in the region.
By the barest of margins two votes Mr. Schroeder won a vote of confidence tied to deploying up to 3,900 soldiers to join the forces against Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network.
The vote shored up Mr. Schroeder’s sometimes fractious, 3-year-old coalition with the Green Party, bringing most pacifist lawmakers of his coalition back into line. If the measure failed, early elections loomed.
“It’s clear that when things get serious, this coalition stands together,” Mr. Schroeder told reporters after the vote.
If German troops are indeed deployed, they will join the forces of other allied nation already committed to many aspects of the Afghanistan campaign.
Top advisers to Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi approved a plan to send up to 1,500 troops, a flotilla of warships and a small squadron of planes to support U.S. forces engaged in the region.
Forces on the move will include three destroyers, two supply ships, a minesweeper, six transport planes and two multipurpose planes. The first troops will be on the way “within days,” said government spokesman Tsutomu Himeno.
It’s the first time since the end of World War II that Japan will provide military support for forces engaged in combat, and required passage of a special law. For Germany, too, the involvement is historic as it represents its largest postwar military foray outside of Europe.
Yesterday, British troops were on duty at an airport in Afghanistan to support humanitarian relief efforts. About 100 British troops landed at Bagram airport north of Kabul on Thursday to secure the airfield, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said.
Up to 4,000 British forces are on standby to go to the region. They would likely be assigned to clear the way for aid agencies to take sorely needed supplies to hundreds of thousands of refugees. American defense officials say it’s crucial to secure air bases formerly held by the Taliban militia, which began its sudden retreat last week.
France and Turkey also had troops on the way or on the ready yesterday.
France sent its first contingent of soldiers to help secure northern Afghanistan for the delivery of humanitarian aid, the Defense Ministry said.
Fifty-eight French soldiers were due to arrive in the northeastern Afghanistan city of Mazar-e-Sharif over the weekend after stopping first in Turkey and Uzbekistan, a ministry spokesman said.
A spokesman said the unit consisted primarily of paratroopers and engineers whose initial mission would be to restore the city’s airport for use by aid workers.
Turkish newspapers reported yesterday that officials there have put as many as 3,000 soldiers on standby for a possible international peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan.
Turkey, a close U.S. ally, has already promised to deploy 90 special forces troops to train anti-Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, and has also offered to send peacekeepers if needed.
Indonesia and New Zealand have also offered to send peacekeepers, and U.S. officials say Bangladesh and Jordan are also likely participants.