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Who Will Take Over At The Helm?

The British government wants to hand over its position leading the peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan in just two months. But potential candidates Germany and Turkey are being very reserved in taking on this role.


German peacekeepers on their way to Afghanistan.

It isn't what you'd call a mad rush. Countries keen on leading the United Nations-mandated International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul appear few and far between.

The ISAF troops in Kabul are currently headed by the British, who have been there for just over a month. But London has said it plans to hand over the command post after three months.

The German government initially indicated that it was interested in the position. This sparked a debate on whether the German military was even capable of such a task.

The former head of the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force in Kosovo, General Klaus Reinhardt, said the military would bite off more than it could chew with such a move. "I think it would be a very difficult task," he said. "The technical requirements necessary to take over such a leading role are actually not available."

Afghanistan's interim government has said it would like the Germans to take over. But on Tuesday, Berlin pulled back.

Turkey interested, but reserved

The second candidate, Turkey, is also hesitant to make a clear statement on the matter. The ruling coalition on Tuesday said it was still discussing the issue.

Turkey is the only Muslim country in NATO. In this respect, many see it as the obvious candidate to fill in the British shoes. Turkey also hopes to be a role model for the new Afghanistan, being both Muslim and a secular state.

Leadership of ISAF would also mean more prestige for Turkey. Its generals would be commanding soldiers from Germany and other leading western nations. Turkey has a well-trained army and international experience with peacekeeping tasks from Somalia to Kosovo. But a leading role in Kabul would put big holes in Turkey's budget.

Turkey has also indicated that it would like to be officially asked to take over the peacekeeping force. But until now, Kabul has only requested German leadership.

The new head of the peacekeeping force needs time to prepare for such a position. The logistics need to be set up, as well as personnel and material sent on its way. With just two months to go, time is slowly running out.

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