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German cabinet shifts stance on "failed states"

Germany's government has outlined new guidelines on how to deal with crises in fragile or so-called failed-state nations. The cabinet wants greater use of joint ministerial teams to help defuse crises as they emerge.

Outlining their change of approach in Berlin on Wednesday, three cabinet ministers cited lessons learned in Afghanistan since 2001 - when Germany joined a NATO-led intervention - and from lingering crises in countries such as Somalia, Yemen and Mali.

In the event of future crises, ministries would set up joint task forces to coordinate the country’s response rather than reacting separately.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said that for Germany, as an export nation, trends such as piracy around the Horn of Africa, terrorism, and narcotics trafficking were not abstract problems but had "totally tangible consequences."

Neither the military, nor the diplomatic service, nor aid development agencies were capable of dealing alone with such conflicts, Westerwelle added.

Demonstrators jumping on the emblem of the German embassy after breaking into the mission's compound in Khartoum on September 14, 2012 in a protest against a film that demeaned the Prophet Mohammad. Photo: REUTERS/Reuters TV

In Sudan last week, protestors angered by a film defaced the German embassy's facade

"The problem of fragile countries will grow and we will have to deal with conflicts more often," Westerwelle said. "We know that the resources of classic diplomacy alone are not sufficient," he added.

Germany's Minister for Cooperation and Development Dirk Niebel said half of the nations with whom Germany has assistance links were either fragile or affected by conflicts. Niebel said he was particularly worried by what he termed the "belt of fragility" stretching across western to eastern Africa.

German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière said the goal was not to export German standards of democracy and that lessons had been learnt in Afghanistan, where he said expectations had been too high.

Guidelines stem from 2009 coalition pact

The guidelines announced by cabinet on Wednesday were foreshadowed in a pact signed in 2009 by the political parties in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government, which is led by her Christian Democrats. Westerwelle and Niebel are leading members of the pro-business liberal Free Democrats (FDP).

Niebel leaving an entrance of the AU forces' headquarters in Mogadischu. Photo: Maurizio Gambarini/ c) dpa - Bildfunk

In March Niebel visited the African Union force's HQ in Somalia

A list of crisis nations ranked by the specialist magazine "Foreign Policy" is headed by five African nations - Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Chad and Zimbabwe. They are followed by Afghanistan, Haiti, Yemen and Iraq.

Germany currently has 4,700 troops stationed in Afghanistan with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which is planning a major withdrawal for 2014.

German and US Army soldiers take an injured German soldier outside a US medevec helicopter to rush him to the German Army hospital in Kunduz, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Feb. 18, 2011. At least two German soldiers died and seven got severely injured when an Afghan National Army soldier open up fire when the German soldiers arrived back to the base in Pul-e Khumri, Afghanistan. Photo: AP /Anja Niedringhaus)

A wounded German soldier is evacuated in February 2011

Since Germany deployed its troops mostly to northern Afghanistan in 2003, 53 German soldiers had died, 34 of them in fatal attacks such as roadside bombings staged by insurgents.

Near Kunduz in September 2009, a US air raid ordered by a German colonel on two fuel tanker trucks that had been hijacked by Taliban insurgents resulted in the deaths of more than 100 Afghans, including many civilians.

ipj/rc (dpa, epd, dapd, AFPD)

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