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German defense minister visits German troops at Jordan base

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Germany will continue to participate in the battle against Islamic State group, even after the extremists suffered territorial losses, the German defense minister said Saturday as she visited German troops at a Jordanian air base.

The German contingent has been stationed since October at the Azraq air base in northern Jordan from where German aircraft have been flying reconnaissance and refueling missions as part of the international military campaign against IS.

Jordan, which borders former IS strongholds in neighboring Syria and Iraq, has been a key ally in the U.S.-led campaign. In recent months, the Islamic State group has lost large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq, raising questions about the future scope of the anti-IS mission.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Saturday that the fight against the militants would continue, in part to ensure they don't take root in rear positions. The international community faces continued challenges, including stabilizing the region in the long term, said the minister, who was accompanied by a group of German parliamentarians. "It's important to me that Germany give assurances that we are reliable," she said.

Four German reconnaissance planes and a refueling aircraft fly missions from Azraq, with an average of 280 German troops stationed there. The contingent was initially stationed in Turkey, but moved to Jordan after Turkey repeatedly barred German parliamentarians from visiting the troops.

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