Deaths Add New Dimension to Debate | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 08.03.2002
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Deaths Add New Dimension to Debate

The tragic death of German soldiers in Afghanistan on Wednesday has shaken the public. But it will not influence the country's commitment to the intenational military mission in Afghanistan, say Germany's leaders.


The site where five soldiers died and seven were injured on Wednesday

The Germans are mourning. On Wednesday, two German and three Danish peacekeepers in Afghanistan died in a tragic accident.

Since then, the deaths and what lessons they should teach are widely debated topics in the German media. "The war in Afghanistan has drawn us in," the top-selling Bild newspaper said. "It's suddenly become clear just how dangerous this mission 5,000 km (3,000 miles) from home is."

Many editorialists are asking what can be done to increase security for the troops. Some are even suggesting Germany shouldn't be at the forefront in Afghanistan.

Continued support for Afghanistan mission

The German government and a strong majority in parliament continues to support the country's involvement in the Afghanistan peacekeeping mission.

The only issue that's controversial among German politicians with regard to Afghanistan is the government's information policy.

Members of the opposition are demanding more details about the role soldiers of Germany's KSK elite unit are playing in "Operation Anaconda" - the US-led combat mission that aims to track down Taliban and al Qaeda fighters who have regrouped in remote parts of Afghanistan.

Public is split over Afghanistan

But even though there is a broad consensus about Afghanistan among German politicians, the general public is divided over the issue.

People ask why Germany has to participate in a war so far from home. All the more so now that the deaths of the German soldiers in Kabul have brought the risks of the endeavor home.

A poll conducted by the dpa news agency on Tuesday and Wednesday shows how controversial the topic is for the Germans.

50 percent of those surveyed approve of German elite soldiers fighting against Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists. But a strong 46 percent say Germany should hold back.

Disturbing situation

The public opinion poll reflects a general unease about the Afghanistan issue in Germany.

Many Germans are uncomfortable with participating in foreign military missions in general. They are still struggling with their country taking on more international responsibility.

For decades, Germany never played an active role in international military missions. It had been confined to the sidelines since the end of the Second World War.

That only began to change after the end of the Cold War. Since the 1990's, the German Bundeswehr has been more and more active in peacekeeping missions and international conflicts.

So news of casualties like those in Afghanistan this week are still disquieting for most Germans. And the country has to digest the shock of such news before it can begin to think about what still lays ahead in Afghanistan.

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