After months of participating in the international anti-terror operation off the Horn of Africa, the German navy will now take over the leadership of the fleet.
German navy in harbor from Djibouti
The German Defense Ministry announced on Tuesday that the German navy would take over the leadership of the international anti-terror fleet stationed off the Horn of Africa. Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping, who is currently on official visit to the United States, said he made the decision after talking with his American counterparts.
According to the defense ministry statement, Germany will take on the helm as soon as possible, and remain in that position until October 30, 2002.
The rather sudden announcement, however, was not welcomed unequivocally by all German politicians. The opposition Christian Democrat Union (CDU) consented, but only "under certain conditions". The party’s defense speaker Paul Breuer said Germany should only take on the leadership role within the framework of close cooperation and coordination with the European partners and the US. Breuer also said it needs to be clear which country succeeds Germany at the end of its five month leadership stint.
In addition, Breuer criticized Scharping’s information policy as "completely unacceptable". The CDU leader said he only learned of the decision through the press.
The Free Democrat Party (FDP), on the other hand, openly endorsed the defense ministry’s decision and referred to it as "appropriate". The new role makes Germany’s contribution to the fight against terror much clearer, the party said. By taking over the leadership in the international operation, Germany gains a stronger military position and can participate more effectively in the discussion of further targets, such as Iraq. Germany is strongly set against a further expansion of the anti-terror war to include Iraq.
The stationing of German ships off the Horn of Africa is part of the American led operation "Enduring Freedom", to which Germany pledged its support back in September after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. There are currently 10 frigates and destroyers patrolling the waters off the coast of Djibouti as part of the international coalition against terror. The Netherlands, Spain, Great Britain and the United States have all sent ships to the region. Together with the German fleet, their task is to help maintain free and safe trade routes and to be on the look out for terrorist activity.