Preparations for German UN Security Troops Well under Way | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 26.12.2001
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Preparations for German UN Security Troops Well under Way

The first German troops to take part in the UN security force for Afghanistan are to leave on December 29. But all soldiers destined for the mission are on a 24 hour alert.


1,200 German soldiers will be part of the international security force for Afghanistan

German military commanders have begun preparing Germany’s contribution to the UN security force for Afghanistan, following parliament‘s endorsement in a special session on Saturday.

A total 1200 German soldiers are to take part in the UN security force for Afghanistan. The Germans plan to serve in a combined unit with the Netherlands and Denmark. The unit will be part of a force of around 5000 soldiers whose job it is to protect the new interim government in Afghanistan.

A German military spokesman in Potsdam said on Sunday that the first German troops – a reconnaissance commando of three to four officers - will join an advance party that is expected to travel to Kabul on December 29. According to the proposed deployment schedule, a command team of 200 soldiers from the three countries is to leave in early January, the remainder following at the end of the month.

According to German Mission Commander Karl-Heinz Krüger, the advance Bundeswehr troops are already on a 24 hour alert. The rest of the troops will meanwhile undergo four weeks of special training, including instruction on securing buildings, recognizing land mines and potential ambushes. The troops‘ main task is to secure Kabul "for the government to perform its duties and for the United Nations," Krüger said.

Lacking emotion

The German Government approved the sending of up to 1,200 troops to Afghanistan in a special session on Saturday. The debate prior to the decision clearly lacked the emotion of similar, previous parliamentary decisions. Last month, the Greens‘ opposition to German participation nearly brought down the government. But on Saturday, the Greens were the only party in parliament to have no members opposing German paricipation in the security force for Afghanistan.

However, various concerns overshadow the deployment of the German troops. One of the broader problems is the financing of the mission. With the new Afghanistan deployment, the ill-equipped German army is being stretched to its limits.

Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping said on Saturday that the costs of the mission would amount to around 380 million ($336 million) Euro. However, only half of the amount are actually planned planned in the budget.

And it is likely that the number of German troops in the UN peacekeeping mission in the Balkans will, as a result, not be increased.

One of the more immediate military concerns to Germany’s military commanders is Afghanistan's limited air capacity. As the main airport in Kabul is still severely damaged due to US bombing, the German forces will have to rely on an air base in Bagram, 55 kilometers north of Kabul. Here, commanders are worried about Taliban attacks with possible shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. Therefore the base will only be used at night and landings will be limited.

German President Johannes Rau thanked Bundeswehr soldiers, aid workers and their families for working to spread peace in the world in his Christmas address on DW-TV. He told Deutsche Welle that taking military action to defend security and freedom did not diminish the German people's love for peace – peace being the most important message of Christmas.

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