The six Tornado jets are to be withdrawn from Afghanistan, under plans from German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. The planes are used for taking aerial photos and reconnaissance rather than attack.

Germany’s Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg informed parliament on Thursday that he is withdrawing Tornado reconnaissance jet planes from Afghanistan and deploying other military personnel instead.

The six planes have been in action in Afghanistan for three and a half years and are generally used for taking aerial photographs and their advanced infrared sensors.

“The reallocation is in line with the already planned replacement of the aircraft in November 2010,” said a briefing note from the [Ministry] of Defence.

The commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), General David Petraeus had previously urged Berlin to send in army personnel instead of airmen. The removal of the Tornados frees up 90 job slots for army personnel to meet Petraeus’ needs.

It is likely they will be freed up to train the Afghan security forces.

Germany’s troop contingent with the ISAF is limited by parliament to 5,350 personnel.