German Defense Minister Peter Struck is considering sending federal border police units abroad to assist the cash-strapped German army with peacekeeping missions in the Balkans and Afghanistan.
Germany's federal border police are currently only deployed at home
In a radio interview on Sunday, Struck acknowledged that he has been harboring plans to involve some of Germany's federal border police in foreign peacekeeping missions as soon as the security situation on the ground could justify such a move. The Bundeswehr's budget constraints had made such lateral thinking necessary, he said.
“In terms of available resources, the Bundeswehr has no leeway at all," Struck said in the interview with Deutschlandfunk. "Finance Minister Hans Eichel says the overall budget for 2005 couldn’t be any tighter, and this also applies to the defense budget. We’ll be able to finance our current missions abroad so that there’ll be no serious equipment problems, but any additional operations wouldn’t be covered by the budget."
Move would require legal change
Struck acknowledged that the prospect of sending border guards to places such as Afghanistan and the Balkans was controversial, especially as the legal framework for such a move is currently not in place.
“It’s basically a question that the interior minister will have to answer. Our border guards are currently not allowed to step into action outside of Germany, but then laws can be changed, if the need arises," Struck said.
"We simply have to face the realities on the ground. I believe that in the near future we’ll need to send border guard units to the Balkans or Afghanistan to assist local police forces there. If the political situation becomes more and more stable in these former crisis areas, the role of foreign peacekeeping troops will diminish and policing duties will increase."
German Bundeswehr officer in Kunduz, Afghanistan
Struck added that, were the law changed to allow border guards to be sent abroad, he didn't expect that they would be deployed anytime soon, due to the security situation in both locations, but particularly in Afghanistan, where guards would also have to play a role in policing drug traffickers.
No deployment in near future
“There’s no need to jump to hasty decisions," Struck said. "For now, it's better to keep up the troop presence both in Afghanistan and in the Balkans. For the locals on the ground, well-equipped soldiers in uniform carry more authority and provide a greater sense of security.”
Struck’s proposal to use border police units in mission abroad has met with approval from the opposition Liberal Democrats. FDP defence spokesman Joerg von Essen said if the security situation on the ground permits, border police could well play an effective role in community policing and the fight against drug trafficking.
Opposition conservative parliamentary spokesman Wolfgang Bosbach disagreed, saying that federal border police were ill-trained and ill-equipped for risky out-of-area missions abroad.