By extending its participation in Operation Enduring Freedom, Germany is not making the world a safer place, said DW's Nina Werkhäuser. Isn't it time Berlin jumped ship?
Germany's role in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) has long been controversial. In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, then Chancellor Gerhard Schröder pledged the US unconditional solidarity and military support in its war on terror. When his coalition partner, the Green party, dug its heels in, Schröder resorted to a vote of confidence in the German parliament to force the Bundestag's pacifist members to swallow a Bundeswehr dispatch to Afghanistan -- and won by a narrow margin.
Back then, Germany offered almost 4,000 troops to help out the Americans in their fight against al Qaeda and its allies, primarily in Afghanistan. Unlike the ISAF mission, which is mandated by United Nations Security Council resolutions, Operation Enduring Freedom is based on the US right to self-defense against terrorism -- which is, granted, recognized by the Security Council.
Nonetheless, six years since the launch of this mission, it is time to ask how long the right to self-defense remains a legitimate argument. If the US is prepared to maintain its war on terror indefinitely, then the German role in the conflict needs to be defined once and for all. This has yet to happen.
According to the Bundestag mandate, elite German Special Forces (KSK) have been deployed to Afghanistan. To this day, the precise nature of their mission is still a secret -- for reasons of security, says Berlin.
All this mystery makes it almost impossible to assess Germany's participation in OEF. One Member of Parliament recently complained that the Bundestag is denied information, while the government insists it has no information to share on Operation Enduring Freedom. For the last six years, Berlin has maintained unreserved loyalty to the undertaking, despite the fact that Washington apparently provides military updates only sporadically. The number of civilian lives claimed in Afghanistan is also information that tends to be swept under the carpet.
But facts are all there is to go on. KSK forces have not been in Afghanistan since Germany's change of government two years ago. The country's current contribution to OEF is 250 marines stationed on the Horn of Africa, which still cost Berlin some 65 million euros ($95 million) this year alone. Past experience suggests that the German frigates do little to deter potential terrorists. So why is Berlin still faithful to Operation Enduring Freedom?
Berlin's argument that it is unwilling to leave its allies in the lurch is a specious one. More to the point, it is unwilling to anger Washington. Germany's involvement in Operation Enduring Freedom does not make the world a safer place. It is high time Berlin abandoned it.
Nina Werkhäuser covers foreign, defense and security policy affairs for DW-RADIO. (jp)