Opinion: Troops Aren't Answer in Afghanistan
In conjunction with the prolonged mandate for German troops in Afghanistan, which was approved by the German parliament in a 535-15 vote, is a measure that calls for 750 more soldiers to join the 2,250 already stationed there. But the extra soldiers in the area will not be able to resolve Afghanistan's difficulties.
There are two faces to the Bundeswehr deployment in Afghanistan. One is of German soldiers walking patrols and watching over the country's first parliamentary election in 36 years as smiling children wave to them. The other shows the faces of the 17 German soldiers killed while serving in Afghanistan in the past three and a half years.
Much of country still unsafe
There are many parts of the country where not even the armed soldiers of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force fear to tread. It is a long and dangerous process to move forward in a country where it's impossible to get an overview of who is in control where.
Taliban supporters, drug barons and local warlords all want to get rid of the foreign troops -- a fact they prove with their regular attacks on ISAF and the 20,000 additional US troops stationed in Afghanistan.
The situation in Afghanistan is so complicated that there are in fact two mandates from the German parliament for the soldiers it sends. Two mandates for a country with two faces: the one that was extended Wednesday for security troops and another for the fight against terrorism, that will be up for debate again in November. And it doesn't look like either one of them will be ending soon as the tasks for German troops are piling up.
Soldiers can't guarantee peace
In addition to the extra troops, the Bundeswehr will be taking over NATO's responsibility for the entire northern part of the country. But that is by no means a guarantee for a lasting peace in the region. The north is where that the drug trade is flourishing, and the new mandate will not take any steps against it, as the troops would certainly be overextended.
Despite its promises to double its efforts, the Afghan government is still unable to counteract the drug barons. The situation doesn't seem to have an answer and sooner or later the drug issue will lead to massive problems -- and soldiers won't be able to disentangle this mess either.
Economic roadmap needed
The international troops are doing an indispensable service in promoting safety and stability in Afghanistan, but they are not a cure for every ailment. Now that Afghans have elected a president and parliament and enacted a constitution, they will have to set up a time plan for the how the country will move itself forward economically without additional income from illegal opium sales.
Otherwise ISAF can continue to prolong its presence for the next 20 years without addressing Afghanistan's actual problems.