For the first time in Afghanistan, Taliban militants have directly targeted German diplomats, attacking a consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif. This marks a turning point in the Afghan conflict, writes DW's Florian Weigand.
Why did the Taliban attack Germans in Mazar-i-Sharif? And why did they choose to target the country's diplomats rather than its military personnel? The militants themselves answered these questions Friday morning, saying it was a "revenge attack" for a US airstrike on a village near the volatile city of Kunduz. The insurgents claimed the US carried out the raid based on the information provided by German troops.
This could well be Taliban propaganda, of course, just like a purported drone image pointing a red mark at the German consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif, which Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid shared on Twitter. Upon a closer inspection, the picture turns out to be a Google map projection. But if the Taliban claim regarding Kunduz proves to be true, this would definitely trigger a serious discussion in Germany about the Afghan situation.
Intelligence sharing with the United States has put German soldiers in harm's way in the past. In September 2009, Bundeswehr Col. Georg Klein summoned US forces to bomb a truck the Taliban had captured. Over 100 civilians, including women and children, died in the airstrike. However, the more recent US attack near Kunduz was different. Apparently, the Taliban had entrenched themselves in the houses, possibly using the villagers as human shields. But again, 30 civilians, including women and children - also an infant - were killed in the raid.
Whether these important but subtle details will play any role in the German public discourse about the Afghan conflict is yet to be seen. But the evidence available shows that for the first time in the protracted war, German civilians, and not German armed forces, have been affected. The Taliban had specifically targeted a German diplomatic mission to exact revenge for the Kunduz attack. In January 2009, a suicide bomber exploded near the German Embassy in Kabul, however, it is still not clear whether the attack was aimed at a US facility or the German diplomatic mission.
After Thursday's attack in Mazar-i-Sharif, it is clear that the Taliban no longer differentiate between international troops and foreign diplomats. The militants now consider envoys as NATO agents who are being used in military operations.
Thanks to the efforts of the security forces - and some good luck - no German diplomats were harmed on Thursday, but the attack raises some serious questions. Berlin must be clear now how the German mission in Afghanistan will be executed. After the attack on diplomats, can we rule out the fact that German development and aid organizations in Afghanistan will not be targeted by militants in the future?
Mazar has long been considered one of the safest areas in Afghanistan, a place where repatriated Afghan refugees from Germany are being sent back to. Germany has contributed a lot to the development of the city - hospitals and schools were built, German's cooperation with local authorities has also been excellent.
The victims of yesterday's attack were mostly Afghans. Up to a hundred locals suffered injuries in the attack, as it was carried out near a busy street in the city center. If the Afghans are not safe in the shadow of a heavily protected German consulate, where are they be safe?
Have something to say? Add your comments below.