A memorial service was held in Kabul on Tuesday for the four German soldiers killed in Saturday’s bomb attack. Their death serves as a reminder of the risks involved in the Afghanistan mission.
A weekend suicide bombing in Kabul killed four German soldiers and injured 29 others
The sight was a somber one.
Hundreds of soldiers from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) gathered in Kabul on Tuesday morning to pay their last respects to the four German soldiers killed in a suicide bombing in the Afghan capital on Saturday.
Many of the members from the 29-nation force fought back tears as they listened to the single bugle play beside the four coffins draped in German flags. The deaths of their colleagues reminded them of the risks they face in securing peace in the still unstable Afghanistan.
The acting head of the 5,000-strong ISAF force vowed to continue the mission in Afghanistan despite suffering the worst attack against the international peacekeeping troops since their deployment in Kabul in late 2001.
"Our respect for the sacrifice of our comrades can only be made in one way, to continue on the mission as well as we can, show determination and make clear that we will not be intimidated," said Brigadier General Robert Bertholee.
After the ceremony, which was held at Camp Warehouse, the headquarters for the German ISAF contingent, the four coffins were driven in convoy to the airport for their flight back home. Their route took them along the very road where the suicide car bombing took place only three days earlier.
Attacks part of risk
ISAF spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Lobbering said additional security measures had been undertaken to reduce the risk of further attacks against the international troops, but added, "This type of terrorist attack cannot be avoided one hundred percent, they are part of our task here."
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the attack was the work of foreign terrorists. He told reporters that the suicide car bomber was not an Afghan national.
The attack, which killed the four soldiers and severely injured 29 others, took place early Saturday morning when a taxi packed with explosives detonated next to a bus carrying German ISAF soldiers on their way to the Kabul airport.
Question of more troops undecided
Despite the suicide bombing, Germany’s defense minister has not altogether ruled out expanding the soldiers’ area of deployment outside Kabul.
A reconnaissance team of experts from the Bundeswehr was sent to Afghanistan on Tuesday to explore the possibility of deploying German soldiers to other cities in Afghanistan as part of an expanded ISAF mission. After the military experts return in two weeks, Defense Minister Peter Struck will present his decision to parliament, which must approve an expansion of the Afghanistan mandate.
Currently, Germany has 2,400 troops stationed in Kabul, making it the largest national contingent in the 5,000-strong ISAF force. Germany also shares command of the international peacekeeping force with the Netherlands.
An expansion of the German mission would require sending more troops to Afghanistan, a move many in parliament are hesitant to make given the current instability in the region.