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German Press Review: Unrealistic Afghanistan Mandate

Germany’s leading newspapers on Thursday focused on the Middle East and the extension of the peacekeeping mandate in Afghanistan outside Kabul.

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5,000 ISAF soldiers are not enough to secure peace in Afghanistan.

While the last wall has fallen in the old continent paving the way for democratization and freedom for all, in the Middle East the opposite is happening, wrote the Frankfurter Rundschau. The Israeli's are building a wall to seal themselves off from the Palestinians and only now are the Americans realizing that what is too often nicely referred to as a fence, stands seriously in the way of the peace process, concluded the paper.

The suggestion by Germany's Defense Minister Peter Struck to extend the peacekeeping mission beyond the Afghan capital Kabul has not impressed many German papers. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung commented that while an extension of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mandate in Afghanistan may be a good idea in theory, it's also unrealistic. The paper condemned the new "concept" of establishing "Provincial Reconstruction Teams," which are designed to combine civil reconstruction and military protection, as no more than a feeble compromise born out of indecisiveness. These teams will not be able to do anything to break the power of regional warlords, the paper argued.

Die Welt in Berlin compared the peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan to those in Kosovo and noted that Germany deployed 50,000 soldiers in Kosovo – many of whom are still in the region years after the fighting ended. Afghanistan, which has 13 times Kosovo’s population, only has 5,000 peacekeepers -- in the paper’s view far too few to grant the same sort of security as in the Balkans. The paper urged Germany to think carefully about whether it has the means to follow through on its commitment.

If the international community is serious about its commitment to Afghanistan, which it assumed when it launched a war against the Taliban, then it must demonstrate that with hard proof. And there’s only one way to do so, wrote the Süddeutsche Zeitung in Munich. The number of troops deployed to Afghanistan must be increased to at least 10,000, if not more, the paper argued. It suggested the peacekeepers should be responsible for disarming the militias and bolstering the power of the central government throughout the country. "Whoever is unwilling to do so, or whoever is unable to do so, should not have become involved in the Afghanistan adventure in the first place," the paper concluded.

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