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Opinion: Germany steps up military role against 'IS'

Germany's armed forces will join the battle against IS terrorists. Berlin is expressing its solidarity with France, but nonetheless takes the backseat with regard to military activities, writes DW's Nina Werkhäuser.

The terrorist attacks in France have changed everything. They have struck at the heart of Europe, and now Europe is striking back with all its might. The battle against the terrorist group "Islamic State" can only be won with military action, said Angela Merkel on Wednesday in the German parliament, the Bundestag.

This comment caused people to sit up and listen attentively. So far, Germany has shied away from direct military combat against "IS" and instead, backed Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq. That may be helpful, but Germany cannot see this as its only contribution after the Paris attacks.

The new orientation came after French President Hollande's urgent request that Germany do more. The Chancellor did not hesitate long, so in that sense, she has shown true solidarity towards hard-hit friends in France. Has the German government not always emphasized that it does not want to remain on the sidelines in times of great crises? This statement does not apply strictly to the military – but does, of course, include the military.

Werkhäuser Nina Kommentarbild App PROVISORISCH

DW's Nina Werkhäuser

Now, the Bundeswehr will do its part to help fight the terrorist group. This is understandable because Germany's credibility is at stake - but it also comes as a surprise.

Until now, it seemed as though the planned extension of the Mali mission was a reasonable way for German armed forces to provide assistance somewhere far away from Syria.

The German government has quickly put together a set of military support measures for the anti-IS alliance: Tornados for reconnaissance, a navy frigate to protect French aircraft carriers and air-to-air refueling. It has been carefully designed and aims to take the expectations of German allies into account, but not to send German soldiers to the front lines of a brutal civil war. Protection, education and logistics: That is what the Bundeswehr is good at. Sending ground troops to Syria and launching air strikes on "IS" have been ruled out.

This planned mission is thus an offer that France will gratefully accept, but that will not overwhelm the Bundeswehr. Germany is showing solidarity with its allies, but also entering a dangerous dilemma: "IS" will not be defeated without military action. And as military pressure mounts on "IS", the threat of terrorist acts of revenge grows - even in Germany.

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