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German Press Review: Concern over Kunduz

German newspapers on Wednesday commented on the possibility of sending troops to the northern Afghan city of Kunduz and whether a rise in the Ifo business confident index points a the start of an economic recovery.


Some fear Kunduz could be dangerous for German Troops.

German Defense Minister Peter Struck indicated on Tuesday that Germany is poised to deploy troops to the northern Afghan town of Kunduz, expanding their mandate beyond the capital Kabul for the first time. The soldiers in Kunduz would operate in a support and security role for teams of civilians charged with rebuilding infrastructure. Berlin-based conservative daily Die Welt said this is a courageous, but half-hearted plan. Courageous because one has finally got round to acting on the knowledge that peace can only take hold in Afghanistan if the peacekeepers swarm out across the country. It is courageous, too, because the Bundeswehr is already over-stretched and also because the government will have to exert itself in order to secure the necessary majority for the new mandate in parliament. However, Die Welt also has its reservations about the possible troop deployment. The German government, it said, has yet to come up with a concept showing how stability could be brought to the whole of Afghanistan. Sending a company with reinforcements to a region that is already fairly secure simply isn't enough.

The Mannheimer Morgen said wives, friends and families of the soldiers will have heard Struck's words with alarm. The expansion of the mandate will make the soldiers' job even more risky, the paper wrote. The cost of foreign missions now stands at €1.5 billion euros a year. That's an increase by a factor of ten over the last decade. More serious than the financial burden is the danger to life and limb. Although only partially equipped for the task, the Bundeswehr is now being called upon to fight terrorism in the same league as Britain and the United States. Sooner or later, something will go wrong.

The Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten also pointed to the risks to soldiers' lives and bemoaned the absence of a workable concept, but it came down firmly in favor of the new mission. The chaos experienced by invading U.S. troops in Iraq, the paper said, makes it incumbent upon us to prove that peace is possible, even if this means sending the Bundeswehr on foreign missions for years on end.

Companies in Germany are feeling increasingly confident that the economy, the biggest in the euro zone, will emerge from its current shallow recession later this year. This message of hope came from the Ifo business climate index which was released on Tuesday. The index rose in August for the fourth month in a row. The Süddeutsche Zeitung said can this faint hope of recovery really reassure us? An economic upswing is of little use if it is only short in duration. It could even cause damage because the political class would abandon its stabs at reform. Germany would be a lot further along the road, the paper said, if Schröder's cohorts hadn't sat back and relaxed during the boom year of 2000. The Westfälischer Anzeiger said business confidence could hardly be better, but it is not reflected in hard economic facts. Data from industrial production, exports, the construction industry all show a negative trend. Germany should be cautious, the paper opined. Just a year ago, we also saw the green shoots of recovery. They withered and died. Psychology is important - it can help boost demand and investment. But illusions are something we can do without. Not even the most buoyant business confidence imaginable could generate enough growth to make a perceptible difference to the unemployment rate.