BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany plans to keep up to 850 soldiers in Afghanistan in 2015 to help train local armed forces, a defense ministry spokesman said on Tuesday, a slightly larger contingent than it had previously expected.
Germany has had some 3,200 soldiers in Afghanistan as part of a NATO-led mission there. It had been planning to reduce that to a force of 600 to 800 soldiers from January.
The spokesman confirmed a Sueddeutsche Zeitung report that the number had been revised up slightly, saying this was because the German military would continue to be responsible for the international mission in northern Afghanistan.
No other partner nation is able to make available helicopters to evacuate injured soldiers in that region so the German military is often called upon to assist with its CH-53 helicopters.
After more than a decade of combat operations in Afghanistan, NATO plans to refocus next year on its core mission of defending Europe and North American.
But the United States and other nations want to keep thousands of troops there for counter-terrorism and training of Afghan personnel after U.S. forces formally withdraw this year.
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Writing by Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Hugh Lawson)