Germany Rebuts Allegation of Abandoning Allies in Afghanistan | Germany | News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 19.11.2007

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Germany Rebuts Allegation of Abandoning Allies in Afghanistan

The German army, the Bundeswehr, refuted accusations made in a British newspaper that its helicopters had deserted Norwegian and Afghan allies in a battle against the Taliban in order to make their dusk curfew.

The shadow of a soldier and a helicopter

The Germany Army said its pilots do not have to be home by nightfall

In a report with the headline "For us ze war is over by tea time, ja," the Sunday, Nov. 18, edition of Britain's The Sunday Times asserted that German military pilots in Afghanistan are obliged to return to base by sunset -- no matter what.

The paper said Bundeswehr medical evacuation helicopters that were participating in an offensive against the Taliban with Norwegian and Afghan troops the pilots pulled out in the middle of the battle, forcing the Norwegians to follow suit.

Soldiers are wrapped in smoke after firing a shell

The Germans were accused of abandoning their allies

"We were attacking the bad guys, then at three or four o'clock the helicopters are leaving," a Norwegian soldier told The Sunday Times. "We had to go back to base. We should have had Norwegian helicopters. At least they can fly at night."

The remaining 600 Afghan soldiers had to retreat until they could be reinforced the following day by a convoy of American Humvees.

In addition, the British paper claimed that Germany's refusal to fly at night was hindering Operation Desert Eagle, an allied offensive involving 500 NATO-led troops and 1,000 Afghan soldiers and police.

Bundeswehr says night flights possible

"There is no ban on night flights," a Bundeswehr spokesman told the online version of the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel. Weather conditions could potentially be a reason to ground Bundeswehr helicopters, continued the spokesman, "but then it's not just us -- the others don't fly either."

Bundeswehr soldiers standing near a tank

The German parliament has said up to 3,500 soldiers can be sent to Afghanistan

spokesman didn't have specific information regarding the battle mentioned by The Sunday Times, but said the Norwegians hadn't filed an official complaint. Instead they had thanked the German troops for their support.

The spokesperson, however, confirmed another charge made by the paper that Bundeswehr soldiers are not permitted to travel more than two hours distance from hospitals with emergency surgery facilities.

Germany has been involved in the NATO-led ISAF mission to Afghanistan, sending some 3,000 troops since 2002. The Bundeswehr is mainly active in civilian reconstruction projects and peacekeeping in the relatively nonviolent northern region of Afghanistan. The German military has also contributed six reconnaissance jets that fly missions over the country's southern regions.

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