Police, soldiers cautious about ′new′ Afghan strategy | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 28.01.2010
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Police, soldiers cautious about 'new' Afghan strategy

The German government's plan to send 850 more troops to Afghanistan and shift the focus to training Afghan police to protect their countrymen and women has met with criticism from military and police groups.

Afghan police recruits being trained by German military police at Faisabad. German officer holding blue imitation automatic weapon.

More police for Afghan trainees, but will it do the trick?

Troops would need several months of extra training and equipment, while much time has already been lost, Wilfried Stolze, a spokesman for Germany's soldiers association, told public broadcaster MDR. He warned that deploying the German personnel away from military bases and closer to civilians would increase the risk of insurgent attacks.

Despite the mandated task of civilian reconstruction over the past eight years "not a lot has really happened," Stolze said.

The adjustments did not go far enough either.

"We as the soldiers' association have been pointing out vehemently for some time that not all the legal circumstances for the soldiers have been clarified," he said, adding that "a lot still has to be done, because the soldiers feel totally uncertain."

Soldiers needed a better legal framework to underpin their decisions while manning checkpoints and during tense operations, he said, referring to last September's controversial NATO airstrike near Kunduz.

A German soldier stands guard alongside German armored vehicles near Kundus

Less armour means more risks, say soldiers' group

The attack, which was ordered by a German colonel, resulted in the deaths of up to 142 Afghans, including civilians and Taliban insurgents. A German parliamentary inquiry into the attack is underway.

'Wasted chances'

Former Bundeswehr intelligence officer Marc Lindermann, who served two tours in Afghanistan, told parliamentary television channel Phoenix that though focusing on training Afghans and civilian projects might be workable, "it comes damn late." NATO had been present in Afghanistan since 2002, he pointed out.

"There have been many strategies," Lindemann said. "A new strategy has been needed for a long time. Eight years have gone by. That's a long time, and there have been many wasted chances."

He cited former defense minister Franz Josef Jung, who during a troop visit to Afghanistan in March 2009 had claimed that things were working out well. In reality, things hadn't been working for a long time in Afghanistan, Lindemann said.

Germany's GdP police officers' trade union said the training of Afghan police recruits had been misunderstood. GdP leader Konrad Freiberg told public broadcaster NDR that German police are civilian law-enforcers who tackle crime and are not paramilitaries as Afghan police units tend to be.

Training paramilitaries is "not our job," Freiberg said, adding that since World War II Germany had made great efforts to establish its own civilian police service.

Editor: Nancy Isenson

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