Bundeswehr advocate says armed forces are ′unprepared′ for combat | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 16.03.2010
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Bundeswehr advocate says armed forces are 'unprepared' for combat

The German parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces, Reinhold Robbe, has blasted the country's political and military leaders for their ongoing failure to prepare the German army for combat.

German soldier in Afghanistan

More Germans are serving in real combat situations

In his last address to parliament before his five-year term ends in April, Reinhold Robbe, Germany's parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces, criticized the country's support of its soldiers, saying the Bundeswehr lacked the most basic necessities for its missions abroad.

Reinhold Robbe, Germany's parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces, visiting troops in Afghanistan

Robbe says his report is based on complaints from soldiers and visits to Afghanistan

The armed forces need more training, and more vehicles and weapons, he said in his report for 2009, adding that there was a shortage of 600 military doctors. Due to a lack of armored vehicles, most training takes place onsite abroad, he said, meaning troops arrive unprepared.

"The military leadership hasn't yet arrived at the realities of an army in combat," he told the politicians, "and continues to fail the troops in providing everything that's needed for them to fulfill their missions."

In 2009 the military treated 466 cases of post-traumatic stress syndrome, double the number in 2008. Almost 90 percent of those treated had served in NATO's International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan, where Robbe said soldiers faced war-like conditions.

Despite the challenges facing them, Robbe said the individual soldiers were doing an excellent job.

Hazing abuse 'unacceptable'

Robbe also touched on the recent accounts of hazing rituals within the Bundeswehr. Robbe said he did not believe the problem was widespread. However, he said such incidents as the forced eating of liver and drinking of alcohol to the point of vomiting that, according to soldier complaints, took place at a mountain infantry troop camp in Bavaria, were not acceptable.

He also said the Bundeswehr had an image problem that needed to be addressed.

"Those who risk their health and lives for the good of Germany expect the same degree of solidarity and respect from society that is common in other countries," he said. "We haven't been able to achieve this so it's about time that official politics starts actively promoting this goal."

An advocate for soldiers

Robbe is a member of the Social Democrats, a party no longer part of the government since elections last fall. He is set to be replaced by Helmut Koenigshaus from the Free Democratic Party.

The parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces acts as an advocate for the armed forces and reports to the parliament on the situation within the military.

Editor: Susan Houlton

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