The German army may in future be required to act militarily in conflict zones and to consider missions beyond its current peace-keeping and stabilization mandate, according to Defense Minister Peter Struck.
German troops could find themselves in the front line in future
Germany's mandate for peace missions around the world could change if Peter Struck gets his way, according to an interview the defense minister gave to German magazine Focus at the weekend.
Struck wants the armed forces to be ready to engage militarily should situations in areas, where they are currently deployed, deteriorate into conflict.
The defense minister is also proposing that, in future, his department considers missions other than peace-keeping and stabilization for the Bundeswehr. German soldiers should be in the position to "carry out peace enforcement missions anywhere in the world" in support of Germany's allies, he said. For example, Struck hinted, the Bundeswehr could be asked to play a stronger role in Africa in the future.
Fatalities a real possibility, says Struck
Struck added that it could not be ruled out that in future German soldiers could be killed in combat operations.
"For those of us who were born after the war this is an unfavorable idea but we must be realistic," he said. "It is possible that we will consider going to other countries and separate warring parties by military means."
Around 6,500 German soldiers are currently serving in foreign deployments, mostly in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Six weeks ago, the Bundestag also agreed to send troops to Sudan. A spokesperson from the ministry of defense recently told German newsmagazine Der Spiegel that the first four of a total of 75 military observers had already arrived.
The deployment, initially set for six months, would be limited to southern and eastern Sudan based on a UN Security Council resolution passed in late March and approved by Khartoum this month. The government said the deployment is estimated to cost around 1.3 million euros ($1.7 million).
Germans join UN peacekeepers in Sudan
The observers will join a group of 750 UN observers who form part of the contingent of 10,000 UN peacekeepers. While the Germans will not offer any direct help to the strife-torn region of Darfur in the west of the country, they will be able to liaise with African Union troops deployed there.
Struck is due to meet with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in New York at the end of June and will then decide whether the German deployment will continue past its end date.
The Sudanese agreement followed on from a statement from the defense ministry in April that said Germany was willing to take on a bigger role in Afghanistan if NATO requested and the German parliament agreed.
Afghanistan presence to increase on request
Speaking on a visit to Uzbekistan before he left for the Afghan capital Kabul, Struck said that Germany could take over responsibility for all the north of Afghanistan.
"Germany is ready to take charge of the entire northern region" of the country, Struck said.
He added however that Germany would wait until NATO finalized its plans for the north and that the German parliament would need to approve any expanded role for the 2,000-strong German contingent attached to the international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan (ISAF).