Germany's decision to offer military support to the US demonstrates a sharp turnaround in foreign policy.
Young German recruits during basic training.
Germany's move to mobilize up to 3 900 troops to support the US-led Afghan campaign marks a new era in the country's foreign policy. "This is really an important, fundamental and historic decision," said Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.
The troops will be the largest German combat contingent to serve overseas since the end of World War Two. Up until now, the German government has been cautious about any direct military involvement in conflicts. Since 1945, it has been virtually taboo to contemplate deployment of troops to support foreign policy goals. Germany was deeply ambivalent about joining even peacekeeping missions in the Kosovo war and, more recently, in Macedonia.
Schröder's announcement on Tuesday demonstrates that Germany is now willing to take on a much greater military role. Many German political commentators said the decision indicates that Germany no longer plays a secondary role within NATO.
Germany's Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, left, and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder arrive at the weekly cabinet meeting in the Chancellery in Berlin, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2001. The cabinet will discuss the German government offer of up to 3,900 German troops for the U.S. war on terrorism, backing up Germany's pledge of solidarity with the United States.
Schröder (photo, right, with Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer) said the mission will involve anti-nuclear, biological and chemical (ABC) warfare units along with German ''Fuchs'' detection tanks. Special forces, medical staff and air transport capacity, as well as a naval detachment will also participate.
He did not specify what the troops will be used for, when they would be deployed, or where they will be stationed. The Chancellor stressed that Germany will not participate in air strikes, nor will ground troops be sent into Afghanistan.
German Reactions to Mission
Chancellor Schröder's cabinet approved the troop mobilization on Wednesday. The deployment is initially limited to twelve months.
The German parliament Bundestag is expected to vote on the mission next week. Schröder said he was confident that it would be accepted by parliament and the public. Germany, mindful of its militaristic past, requires that parliament approves any deployment of troops outside the NATO area.
Schröder faces his toughest political hurdle from the Green Party, the junior partner in the coalition government. The Greens said they did not adhere to ''unlimited solidarity'' with the US in its war against terrorism. Schröder has used this slogan repeatedly since the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington. Green party leader Fritz Kuhn said the mobilization decision belonged to his party's position of ''critical solidarity''.
In addition to Schröder's Social Democrats (SPD), the opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU), as well as the moderate Free Democrat Party (FDP) support the mission. The reform communist Party of Democratic Socialists (PDS) is against troop mobilization.