All aboard for a new missionImage: Bundesbildstelle
Germany Proposes Creation of Secure Islands in Afghanistan
September 30, 2003
Germany has put forth a plan for the expansion of the International Assistance Security Force beyond Kabul and the creation of secure islands in Afghanistan’s lawless regions.
As fears continue to rise of Taliban resurgence in the mountainous border regions of Afghanistan, NATO plans to extend the Kabul-based International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and deploy troops further in-country have received a boost from Germany, one of the main contributors to the ISAF presence.
Germany's Ambassador to the United Nations Günter Plueger proposed on Monday that the range of international troops in Afghanistan be expanded beyond Kabul and that “ISAF islands” of security be created in the unstable provinces. The German proposal states that these islands of security would be composed of roughly 250 to 400 troops with mobile units to connect them.
The German government, which along with its Canadian counterpart provides the majority of the 5,000-strong ISAF presence in Afghanistan, has already agreed to expand its army’s peacekeeping mandate in Afghanistan beyond Kabul, with a possible deployment of between 230 and 450 troops of the Provisional Reconstruction Team (PRT) to protect reconstruction projects in the northern city of Kunduz.
Expansion subject to new U.N. mandate
Because of restrictions in the German constitution, the deployment requires that the United Nations vote to expand the mandate before Berlin can commit more soldiers to the NATO mission. The current U.N. mandate, which limits the mission to the Afghan capital and surrounding areas, is expected to be renewed in December. However, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said last week that he expected the U.N. Security Council to agree on ISAF deployment to the provinces “in a very short time.”
The German proposal goes beyond deploying troops solely as protection to the ongoing civilian reconstruction work and includes a plan for ISAF soldiers to be involved in providing security for nationwide elections expected to be held no later than June 10, 2004. So far, a German diplomat said, Germany has not encountered opposition to its proposal. "We've had positive words of welcome from several (countries), including the U.S," he told CNN Germany.
Bundeswehr would get Kunduz as planned
A German official said strategically important cities and locations such as Mazar-e Sharif, Kandahar and Herat would be the main focus of the extended deployment in a bid to protect the humanitarian and reconstruction work needed to bring stability to the areas. The official added that Germany would go ahead with its plan to send Bundeswehr troops to Kunduz to create “a refuge of security.”
Plueger, who is expected to tour Afghanistan with members of the U.N. Security Council in late October, said discussions are ongoing with NATO and a resolution on extending ISAF’s range should be ready to present to the Security Council in October.
Karzai warns of growing opposition
The German proposal increases the urgency surrounding the discussion to expand the ISAF mandate at a time when increasing lawlessness in the country is causing many Afghans to hope for the return of security that marked the rule of the rigid Taliban regime. The Afghan President Hamid Karzai issued a warning last week saying that if international reconstruction aid falters and no more troops are deployed, Islamic radicals could regain control in Afghanistan.
His feelings have been echoed in recent weeks by the United Nations and several aid agencies which have urged repeatedly for the Kabul-confined force to be expanded to the provinces, warning that aid, development and reconstruction were being hampered by violence.
President Karzai reiterated his call for more peacekeepers to be deployed in areas which have seen increased attacks in recent weeks when he met with NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson on Sunday. Instability in rural areas is causing concern in Kabul that Taliban sympathizers are regrouping and growing in strength. Karzai’s government has little control in most of the 32 provinces, where governors often rule like warlords with private militias.