BERLIN - Germany offered Thursday to provide up to 800 soldiers for a NATO training mission in Afghanistan after U.S. and other foreign combat troops leave the country by the end of next year.
Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Berlin is offering to station between roughly 600 and 800 soldiers in Kabul and the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif for a two-year period starting in 2015. They would provide training, advice and support to local forces but not engage in combat missions.
After that period ends, plans call for training and advisory help by foreign soldiers to be concentrated on Kabul, and Germany would then be prepared to contribute 200-300 troops, de Maiziere said.
The final decision must be taken by the next German government following national elections in September, but polls show Chancellor Angela Merkel is likely to win a third four-year term - with or without her current center-right coalition. Germany's main center-left opposition party, which took the country into Afghanistan when it was in government, has continued to support the mission there.
De Maiziere said Germany's offer is dependent on a formal invitation from the Afghan government, because "we want to be welcome." Germany also insists on a U.N. resolution, a troop status agreement with Afghanistan, and an "appropriate contribution" to the mission by Germany's allies.
Germany now has about 4,170 troops in Afghanistan, mostly in the north, which has been a relatively calm region.
The U.S. is expected to keep between 9,000 and 10,000 troops in Afghanistan as a residual force after 2014, but no final decision has been made.