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Germany

Robbe: German Military Needs More Breathing Room

The parliament's defense delegate, Reinhold Robbe, said he wants more than just money for soldiers. The Bundeswehr is also suffering from lack of interest and appreciation, he told DW-WORLD.DE.

German troops in Afghanistan

The German parliament has placed a 3,500-troop limit on its deployment to Afghanistan

Reinhold Robbe, a member of the Social Democratic Party, has been the German parliament's military representative since 2005.

DW-WORLD.DE: Mr. Robbe, some German papers have reported that you fear for the military's morale. What is going wrong?

Reinhold Robbe

Reinhold Robbe represents the armed forces in the German parliament

Reinhold Robbe: I'm not concerned about morale in the military. I'm only hearing from my soldiers that they expect greater support from their fellow citizens. After all, they represent German interests everywhere, and above all in Afghanistan, and give both their health and their lives for that. They'd like to see a certain amount of sympathy for what they do and an overall interest in it.

A new mandate for the military is currently up for debate in parliament. Is that the place you'd like to see greater approval?

The soldiers know exactly what a lively democratic debate sounds like and arguments and counter-arguments are a part of that. Still, it would be good if the mandate were obtained by a wide majority. That would increase not only the legal security but also the of the soldiers' frame of mind -- although in a democracy other decisions are to be accepted.

Is the military, with its 11 foreign deployments, overstretched?

No. You have to pay attention to which missions they're dealing with. There are observation missions that involve just a few members of the military. The largest missions are in Afghanistan, in the Balkans, on the Horn of Africa and along the Lebanese coast. That's where there's the most material and where the troops are under the most strain.

I would only talk about overstretching when there's a large vacancy or bottleneck. You can't say that at the moment. But, if the mandate's upper limit for soldiers in Afghanistan is raised in October as it will probably be, that would make it clear that 3,500 soldiers there is not sufficient and that they need to be extended and strengthened. Everything will get easier if the German armed forces get more air to breathe and room to maneuver. With an expanded mandate, they will have the opportunity to respond in more flexible ways, especially when it comes to improving security.

Does more breathing room mean more money?

Not only that. The German armed forces are chronically underfinanced anyway, but I don't want to repeat that at every opportunity. There is also the formal, basic framework. The current upper limit for the mandate has simply created too many problems. When security needed to be increased in Kunduz because it became particularly dangerous, for example, certain jobs have to be brought back to Germany for a period of time. That creates problems, unrest and a feeling of unfairness among the soldiers.

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