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Opinion: Germany's Afghan Job Still Important, Still Dangerous

Almost 2,000 German soldiers will move from Kabul to northern Afghanistan, leaving 500 in the capital, Defense Minister Jung said on Thursday. Though Kabul remains dangerous, it's even worse elsewhere in the country.

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In Kabul, Jung said 1,850 German peacekeepers would move north

Franz-Josef Jung learned his lesson. Nowadays a good defense minister's visit to the troops includes mentioning the looming danger but still gives the impression of confidence. Particularly before Christmas. At the same time, this visit can't hide the fact that the German soldiers in Afghanistan have to reckon on deadly attacks every day. The past few weeks have shown that clearly enough. Just five weeks ago, a German soldier was killed in a suicide attack in Kabul.

So far, the danger to the ISAF peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan has been fairly predictable. Often only a badly aimed rocket flew over the heads of the soldiers. But that has changed. The suicide attacks present a much greater danger. There's no adequate protection from attackers prepared to sacrifice their lives. Even the "Dingo" armored vehicles Defense Minister Jung handed over to the troops can't change that.

Bundeswehrsoldat bei Anschlag in Kabul getötet

A German soldier dies when in a suicide attack near a NATO vehicle in Kabul

The new kind of threat fuels the suspicion that those pulling the strings have changed. While in the past former militia leaders and drug barons trying to defend their realms were considered responsible, the new wave of violence brings to mind the work of Islamic terrorists. Their aim: putting an end to the process of democratization. Afghan politicians fear that their country could become a new battlefield of Islamic terror.


Ce n tral Afgha n ista n left i n the lurch?

Defense Minister Jung burst into this tense situation with his announcement about moving the majority of German soldiers in Kabul to Mazar-i-Sharif, in the north. It's the right decision. German soldiers are needed much more desperately in the north of Afghanistan than in Kabul, where local police and soldiers keep order.

However, the effect of this announcement on the Afghans is hard to anticipate. The previous day, dissatisfaction on the Afghan side was apparent when US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced that up to 3,000 American soldiers would be pulled out of the country. The fear in Kabul is that the move could encourage the insurgents to carry out more attacks. The Germans must now avoid giving the impression that they're deserting the people in central Afghanistan.

During his visit to Camp Warehouse, Defense Minister Jung referred again and again to how the process of democratization would make Afghan more secure. Unfortunately, that's just wishful thinking. On the contrary, democracy doesn't lead to security. Without security there is no democracy.

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