The German government may seek parliamentary authorization to send 1,500 more German soldiers to Afghanistan to help US President Barack Obama's troop surge, according to officials speaking anonymously in Berlin on Friday, DPA reported.
That number would expand the German contingent by one third, from 4,500. Senior officials of the ministry who would not be quoted by name said a ceiling of 6,000 German soldiers was needed to create a "realistic outlook" of withdrawal by stopping the Taliban.
But the Defence Ministry's spokesman, Christian Dienst, promptly denied the number, saying, "It has no basis in fact."
The German government has been tight-lipped for weeks over how it will respond to pressure from Washington for more troops while defusing growing opposition criticism of the deployment.
Chancellor Angela Merkel is scheduled to set out her policy on Afghanistan to parliament in Berlin on Wednesday next week, a day before her foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, attends a conference in London on western strategy in Afghanistan.
Defence officials who requested anonymity told the German Press Agency dpa that a force of 6,000 was needed, but Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg would argue that 500 of the additional soldiers would be a number included for leeway only.
In this way, it would be possible to say "just under 1,000" extra soldiers were in fact being deployed. They said Germany could hardly offer less at a time when the United States is sending an additional 30,000 soldiers to confront the Taliban.
The ministry is often tight-lipped and has denied figures in the past. In 2008 it maintained for weeks there was no plan to raise the ceiling number for the contingent to 4,500 though this was in fact the number later applied for and approved.
Germany cannot deploy forces abroad without parliamentary authorization, including term limits.
The main opposition party in parliament, the Social Democratic Party, was discussing Friday its future stance on Afghanistan.
The SPD has demanded Berlin make clearer when the German troops are to return home, adding that a drawdown should begin next year. Party leader Sigmar Gabriel criticized plans to increase the force, saying, "If we step up fighting, it means more civilian deaths."