Minister Rejects Urgent Call for Reinforcements in Afghanistan | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 23.04.2008
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Minister Rejects Urgent Call for Reinforcements in Afghanistan

Germany's military union has said it would be irresponsible of the government not to send at least 500 more troops and better equipment to northern Afghanistan. But politicians say they won't deploy additional soldiers.

German military jeeps in Afghanistan

Germany won't accomplish its mission with 3,500 troops, the military union chief said

The head of Germany's military union, Bernhard Gertz, on Tuesday, April 22, accused the government of not acting in the interest of the troops it has stationed in the war-torn country.

The some 3,200 German troops in northern Afghanistan are not enough to secure peace and rebuild the country's infrastructure, he said.

Gertz's call for 500 additional soldiers immediately, and 400 to 800 more further in the future to serve as a buffer, was sharply rejected by Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union.

Politicians stick to mandate

Bernhard Gertz

Gertz said the war on terror in southern Afghanistan can't be won militarily

"We have a clear mandate from the German parliament with a limit of 3,500" troops, said Jung.

Christian Schmidt, Germany's deputy defense minister and member of the Christian Social Union, said that the current mandate was sufficient to ensure security.

"The tasks can be fulfilled with the current number" of soldiers, he told the daily Passauer Neue Presse.

The mandate, up for renewal in October, limits Germany's involvement to the country's northern region, where it is active in peacekeeping, reconstruction and police training.

Several hundred troops are set for deployment in a NATO Quick Response Force this summer, but Gertz said others are being withdrawn in order to keep the Bundeswehr's deployment under the 3,500-solider limit set by the current parliamentary mandate. The changes in German troops' orders could have consequences on the security situation, Gertz said.

Official reports gloss over facts, says union chief

He also strongly criticized the equipment the Bundeswehr has at its disposal in Afghanistan, saying that it was in urgent need of heavy weapons and equipment.

None of the six German helicopters on site is working properly on some days, said Gertz.

German soldier in Kabul

The soldiers need better equipment, said Gertz

"We're tired of always having to complain about how far away we are from fulfilling our missions and then having to read government reports about how great everything is going," he added.

Parties split on reinforcements

The head of the Social Democrats parliamentary group, Peter Struck, and SPD defense expert Rainer Arnold both said their party was willing to consider an increase in troops.

Arnold, however, said there was "no chance" that any changes would be made before parliament takes its summer recess.

Apart from the six Tornado jets active in reconnaissance missions throughout Afghanistan, Germany has consistently refused to send troops to the more dangerous southern region in all but emergency situations. The Bundeswehr's mandate limits its activity to peacekeeping and rebuilding.

In agreement with Berlin politicians, Gertz said he strongly opposed Germany deploying troops to southern Afghanistan.

"The thought that the fight against terror in southern Afghanistan can be won militarily is as realistic as trying to ride a dead horse," he said.

The United States, Canada and the Netherlands are among the countries with troops stationed in southern Afghanistan.

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