The German parliament voted by a large majority Saturday to send up to 1,200 troops to the international security force in Afghanistan.
In a special sitting of the German Bundestag, deputies voted 538 to 35, with eight abstentions, to contribute troops to a joint unit with Denmark and the Netherlands that will form part of the peacekeeping force supporting the interim government just installed in Afghanistan.
For many German politicians it was a more difficult decision than allowing German peacekeeping forces in the Balkans.
In the debate Saturday there were worries over the dangers of sending troops to a country where a war is still in progress. And there were also concerns that the British army, which joined the United States in bombing Taleban positions in Afghanistan, will now be leading the security force.
But there were also concerns that the British will only accept the leadership for three months, and even during that time have agreed to accept the final authority of the United States command.
Despite other doubts about Germany's military budget covering the operation, there was broad agreement that the country which hosted the conference on the future of Afghanistan should also have a substantial presence in the international security force there.
This is the fifth foreign mission for the German army this year. A total of more than 60,000 German troops will be either directly or indirectly involved in foreign missions.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and his Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer have sent troops to Bosnia and Kosovo, Macedonia and East Timor. Last month, it agreed to make 3,900 troops available to support the U.S. in the war against terrorism.
The decision Saturday to send troops to Afghanistan demonstrate a further shift from Germany's previous refusal to engage in any military action outside the NATO area.