BERLIN Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet on Wednesday approved the deployment of additional German troops to Turkey to help operate NATO surveillance aircraft as part of the U.S-led fight against Islamic State, government sources said.
The Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft will be based at Konya air base in southern Turkey. They will be used for reconnaissance in support of air strikes against Islamic State targets.
The German military, or Bundeswehr, provides about one third of the crews used to operate and maintain NATO's AWACS planes, but German law requires that individual missions must be approved by parliament. No details were provided on exactly how many troops would be part of the deployment.
Germany already has about 500 military personnel involved in the fight against Islamic State, including over 240 who are based at Incirlik air base in Turkey to operate six Tornado surveillance aircraft and a refuelling plane. Others are on board a German frigate that is operating in the eastern Mediterranean with the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle.
The total number of German troops participating in the fight against Islamic State is capped at 1,200 and will not be increased, the sources said.
German involvement in combating IS was "a core part of our security policy in the region, which is aimed at countering the direct and immediate danger to Germany, our allies and the international community," the draft legislation said.
NATO approved the new AWACS mission in July and could start flying the planes this month, although initially without German crews since the German parliament is not expected to approve the expanded German role until November.
NATO has been operating some AWACS from Konya air base since early 2016 as part of a separate mission approved after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet in the border area in November 2015.
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold, Writing by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)