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Monday, 4 March, 2002, 15:44 GMT
German special forces in action
German KSK forces
Special operations are normally shrouded in secrecy
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By Rob Broomby
BBC Berlin correspondent
German special forces troops, the KSK, are participating in military operations in eastern Afghanistan, it has been confirmed.

It is the first time German troops have been in combat outside Europe since World War II.

The news of their involvement in the operation first emerged on Sunday from a US military spokesman.

German ISAF member in Kabul
German troops have already joined the security force
This caused embarrassment in Berlin, where the practice is not to offer information on special forces operations.

Berlin's confirmation, when it came, was at best cautious.

A spokesman for the German Defence Department said simply that he wished that the information about the operation had not been given out in the way it had been.

It is known that fewer than 100 special troops of the KSK are on the ground in Afghanistan.

Kabul protection

That force is separate from the German contribution of up to 1,100 soldiers to the International Security Assistance Force, Isaf.

The chairman of Germany's parliamentary defence committee said they had assumed there would be an operation but that the timing had come as a surprise.

The news follows the revelation that German soldiers will be taking over command of the security brigade offering protection within the Afghan capital, Kabul itself.

The British will retain overall control of Isaf, but this move shows Germany's increasing readiness to take on international responsibilities.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder recently rejected calls for Germany to take over the command of Isaf itself when the British leave.

See also:

23 Dec 01 | Europe
Germany approves Afghan force
06 Nov 01 | Europe
Germany agrees Afghanistan force
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