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Report: Germany Mulling Military Training Mission In Tunisia

February 21, 2016 (Photo Credit: Thomas Kienzle/AFP via Getty Images)

BERLIN — Germany is considering sending troops to Tunisia to help train soldiers in the fight against the Islamic State group, a newspaper report said on Sunday.

Bild am Sonntag said that representatives of the defence and foreign ministries would hold talks in Tunis on Thursday and Friday about how the German military could lend support in a training mission.

It said the engagement envisaged training Tunisian soldiers first and could eventually be extended to setting up a training camp in Tunisia for Libyan soldiers, run with other international partners.

“The IS terror is threatening all of North Africa,” German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen told the newspaper.

She said it was thus crucial “to make every effort to support countries struggling with democracy such as Tunisia.”

Von der Leyen told the newspaper that a training camp in Tunisia would be a contribution toward regional stability.

“And if its direct neighbor Libya manages to put in place a unity government one day, its security forces could also benefit from established training facilities in Tunisia,” she said.

A defence ministry spokesman told AFP he had no further details beyond the minister’s remarks.

A foreign ministry spokesman confirmed the planned talks in Tunis “on further cooperation on security” but declined to provide more information.

German forces are currently engaged in the international alliance against the Islamic State group, including by arming and training Kurdish forces in northern Iraq and flying reconnaissance missions over Syria with Tornado jets.

Since 2013, Germany has provided Tunisia with more than €100 million ($111 million) in programs to improve its economy. It also provides its security forces with equipment and training.

However the country’s defence commissioner Hans-Peter Bartels warned in a report last month that the German military was overstretched and underfunded and had reached “the limit of its capacity for interventions.”

Tunisia suffered two devastating attacks targeting its vital tourist sector last year, in the beach resort of Sousse and on the National Bardo Museum in Tunis, that together left 60 people dead. Both were claimed by IS.

IS has also been gaining ground in Libya amid the unrest that has gripped the country since longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi was ousted in 2011.

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