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Germany announces plan to expand national army

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-02-22 09:29

BERLIN - Germany on Tuesday announced a plan to expand its national army Bundeswehr in light of "increasing responsibilities."

The number of professional soldiers will increase by around 10 percent from 178,000 to 198,000 by the year 2024, defense minister Ursula von der Leyen said, adding that non-combat civilian employees would also expand to over 61,000 to fend off growing cyber attacks or hacking.

"The Bundeswehr is under demand like never before. The Bundeswehr must be allowed to grow accordingly," said von der Leyen.

German soldiers are currently engaged in operations in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State, in Mali supporting United Nations' stabilization mission, and also in the Baltic States as part of NATO's defense force.

The increase in manpower was also widely seen as a response to Washington's recent pressure on NATO members.

The newly-elected US President Donald Trump had called the military alliance "obsolete" and threatened to "moderate" the United States' commitment to it if NATO partners failed to meet the mandated defense spending target of 2.0 percent of gross domestic product. It has raised fears that the United States would no longer be the guardian of European security, and Berlin could have to fill the void.

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