Lack of equipment
Gemany's parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces, Hellmut Koenigshaus, has returned from a visit to German troops in Afghanistan with renewed criticism about the lack of equipment provided to soldiers there.f
On Thursday, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper published a summary of a report compiled for the defense ministry by Koenigshaus.
In the 56-page document, Koenigshaus expressed frustration that equipment shortfall issues that had previously been brought up by Reinhold Robbe, Koenigshaus's predecessor as parliamentary armed forces commissioner, had not been adequately addressed.
This includes a lack of protection for German troops searching for IEDs (improvised explosive devices). The current practice for German soldiers is to search for the devices on foot, a tedious and dangerous process that makes them an easy target for the bombs, which are often concealed along roads and paths.
A solution suggested by Koenigshaus would be providing the Bundeswehr with armed vehicles that are outfitted with equipment to detect IEDs.
American forces in Afghanistan use such vehicles, and while they are not completely protected from an IED blast, they are safer than foot patrols.
"We have to do a better job of protecting our soldiers who are detecting and disposing of explosive devices," Koenigshaus said. "There are products on the market that would help us do that."
After Koenigshaus brought up the issue of the vehicles in a different report in June, the Defense Ministry had decided to develop its own vehicles that would be available by 2016. However, a temporary solution has been found in the meantime that would be available to soldiers by 2011.
During an unannounced visit with ISAF forces in Afghanistan on his way home from meetings in China, German Defense Minister Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg said "improving [how troops are] equipped is an ongoing process."
He added that he welcomed contributions from anyone willing to help in that process, and Koenigshaus was doing just that.
Author: Matt Zuvela (dapd, Reuters, dpa)
Editor: Chuck Penfold