Military Expert Criticizes Proposed German Force for Afghanistan | Germany | News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 30.01.2008

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Military Expert Criticizes Proposed German Force for Afghanistan

The possibility of German combat troops being used in Afghanistan has drawn criticism from a former military chief of staff. Afghan President Karzai sees the proposed increase of troops in the country as unnecessary.

German soldiers stand alert near an explosion site on the outskirts of Kabul

German troops, who could be sent into battle in Afghanistan, are allegedly ill-equipped

A day after it was officially confirmed that NATO had made a request to the German Defense Ministry to provide 250 combat troops to a Quick Reaction Force in northern Afghanistan, former NATO Chief of Staff Harald Kujat warned that German soldiers were ill-equipped to deal with combat operations against the Taliban and al Qaeda insurgents.

Kujat, a former chairperson of NATO's military committee, deplored the lack of adequate hardware at the disposal of the German military and said on Wednesday, Jan. 30, that Bundeswehr troops "did not even have functioning devices, with which they could communicate with their allies in Afghanistan."

NATO submitted a formal request on Tuesday for Germany to provide a replacement for the 350-strong Norwegian force that leaves in July after an initial inquiry had been made late last year.

The German Defense Ministry confirmed earlier this month that it was considering whether to deploy the troops, responding to a media report that referred to a "new quality" in the German engagement in Afghanistan.

Government officials have, however, in recent weeks denied that supplying a rapid reaction force would amount to sending men into combat. They said the force was designed to provide emergency support to other troops in the north and that though its brief would include hunting "terrorists" and dealing with kidnappings this would not be its main task.

Inadequate equipment could cost lives

German soldiers of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) stand in front of an armored personal carrier vehicle

Soldiers could be at risk from lack of equipment

Kujat called on German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung to prevent such a deployment as the inadequacy of German military equipment and lack of necessary supplies could lead to casualties, in addition to those which would come from engaging the enemy.

He maintained that the soldiers themselves were well-trained and qualified to deal with the challenges of combat but the serious deficits in modern and efficient guidance systems and communication devices could negate their skills as soldiers.

Jung was in Kabul for discussions with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday, and made it clear that German soldiers were "ready to participate in operations against terrorists and cooperate with other international forces in any other part of the country."

Reacting to the news that NATO planned to send more troops to his country to counter the threat of a resurgent Taliban back by supporters of al Qaeda, Karzai said training the Afghan police and army was more important than sending more foreign troops to the country.

Karzai doubts wisdom of sending more troops

Afghan policemen march during a graduation ceremony in Kabul

President Karzai advocated more investment in the Afghan police and army

"More than anything else, we need help to rebuild our human capital and our institutions, our army, our police force, our administrative structure, our judiciary and so on," Karzai told German newspaper Die Welt on Wednesday.

"Although the situation has finally improved, the unintentional bombing of Afghan civilians by NATO and US troops is particularly painful, although it stems from a lack of ground troops," he added. "However, I am not sure that sending more troops is the right answer."

The Western alliance already has around 37,000 troops deployed in the country. NATO commanders say they need some 7,500 extra troops to carry out their mission as they battle the Taliban. Afghanistan's army currently numbers 58,000 troops, with a target of 70,000.

Karzai said he had the impression that the war "is not happening here," but was being exported to Afghanistan from other countries.

"We should concentrate on the sanctuaries and the training camps," he said. "Afghanistan is not a sanctuary. It was one, but we have taken it back."

Focus should shift to Pakistan

A Pro-Taliban militant in Islamabad

Taliban fighters are thought to be re-grouping in Pakistan

Most concern focuses on the mountainous border area with Pakistan, where Afghan and Western forces believe Taliban extremists regroup to launch attacks in southern Afghanistan.

Karzai said his recent meeting with Pakistan's under-pressure President Pervez Musharraf had been "very constructive."

"My hope is that Pakistan will take harder and clearer measures in the future and thus becomes a region where extremism is no longer used as a political instrument," he was quoted as saying. "If Pakistan takes a step in this direction, we in Afghanistan will take many steps to support it."

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