German opposition politicians have called on the government to formulate a clearer policy for foreign military deployments after a report criticized Bundeswehr peacekeeping troops in Kosovo.
Kosovo remains a challenge for NATO-led peacekeepers
Conservative and liberal politicians in Germany have urged the Social Democrat-Green coalition government to radically reassess the planning underlying foreign deployments of the German military after a report by the organization Human Rights Watch severely criticized the conduct of Bundeswehr troops during riots in Kosovo in March this year.
German troops attached to the NATO-led KFOR international peace-keeping force have been accused of not doing enough to prevent the ethnic violence between Albanians and Serbians that erupted in the Bundeswehr's protection area of Prizren and the subsequent loss of life that occurred during the riots and the burning of a Serbian Orthodox seminary in the town.
Conservatives call for more coherent plans
German soldiers of the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force.
Christian Schmidt, parliamentary defense spokesman for the conservative opposition Christian Democrats and Christian Social Union, said that the government needed to implement stronger plans detailing the role of German troops in service abroad.
As well as changes to the duties of the German KFOR troops, other basic considerations" would also have to be put in place for a lengthening of the armed forces' mandate by parliament," Schmidt said in an interview with German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. He added that the conservatives would be compiling and presenting "a detailed list of questions" relating to the KFOR mandate and other deployments around the globe.
The German Defense Ministry issued a statement on Thursday saying that German troops actually prevented the loss of life in its view, contradicting the Human Rights Watch report. The Defense Ministry statement added that it was wrong to describe the German role in the March riots as a "disaster" and stressed that the soldiers operated within lawful boundaries during the violence.
Assess military success rate, says FDP
German soldiers march in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Other opposition figures challenged the government over the range of foreign deployments and the rationale behind them. Wolfgang Gerhardt, parliamentary chairperson of the Free Democratic Party (FDP), was quoted by the FAZ as saying: "The Federal Government should consider the political and security successes of all the present deployments and show which of their plans have been decisively applied by the armed forces."
Gerhardt also criticized the announcement by Defense Minister Peter Struck that German soldiers could soon be used again in Africa. Struck had recently spoken of Germany's "special responsibility" to the African continent. "When the German military has 270,000 soldiers and around 8,000 mobilized for missions abroad, I would not say that I could not give support for an extra mission overseas," Struck replied when asked if he would consider sending Bundeswehr troops to areas such as Sudan if the United Nations requested it.
Possible African mission raises further questions
Extending the Afghanistan mandate to Kunduz has raised questions.
Gerhardt said that the government lacked a cohesive concept when it came to the justification of foreign deployments. Missions such as the widened Afghanistan mandate in Kunduz and the setting up a provisional reconstruction team in the region of Faizabad "remain ineffective and serve only as a reassurance," Gerhardt said. "Should an African deployment be deemed necessary, one must really ask whether a clear policy exists in foreign affairs."