Press Review: Germany Ends Special Role in Afghanistan | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 07.02.2008
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Press Review: Germany Ends Special Role in Afghanistan

Germany's Defense Minister Franz-Josef Jung on Wednesday, Feb. 6, announced that he would send over 200 Bundeswehr combat troops to northern Afghanistan. The German media was split on the decision.

German soldiers in Afghanistan

Does Germany have a duty to up its commitment to ISAF?

"Germany has to send 200 more soldiers to Afghanistan," the mass-market Bild Zeitung wrote on Thursday. "It's no reason to celebrate -- but it's a responsible decision. … It overturns the picture that the government has painted so far of the Afghanistan mission -- of a military mission that could somehow be different, somehow more civil than the big NATO states. "

Defense Minister Jung "doesn't want to call [the new mission] what it is," the widely-read tabloid continued, "But clear language should have been used so that citizens will unmistakably know what the soldiers are dealing with.

"Germany's special role has definitely come to an end."

Similarly, Die Welt wrote Wednesday evening in its online edition that Germany's contribution to ISAF is not a favor, but a duty.

Canadian troops in Afghanistan

Canada has insisted on more support from other NATO partners

"After ignoring for years the cries for help from the allies, it's now high time that German politics came clean with the population about what's necessary for a successful operation in Hindu Kush -- that the Bundeswehr's main job is not civilian reconstruction but to militarily ensure security so that reconstruction is possible in the first place," the paper opined.

In light of a recent letter from US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to Jung with an explicit request for German troops in southern Afghanistan, Die Welt said the US is not the only ally to exert pressure: "All the NATO partners, like Britain and the Netherlands and especially from the Canadians, who lost 60 men over a short time in hostilities with the Taliban," have pushed Germany for more assistance.

With its decision, "Germany has crossed a magic line," concluded the paper.

"The growing criticism from the US, Canada and Britain over the German involvement in Afghanistan is justified," the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung commented Thursday. The paper added that "Chancellor Merkel doesn't have much success to show, either militarily or in reconstruction."

The daily criticized the breadth of the mission, saying that 3,000 Bundeswehr soldiers in the relatively safe northern region of Afghanistan and 60 police trainers were not enough.

"Apparently, the Social Democratic Party and the Christian Democratic Union would, for domestic reasons, prefer to let the NATO alliance and 24 million Afghans slide deeper into crisis than massively expand the German mission to Hindu Kush," the paper noted.

Woman and donkey in Afghanistan

Reconstruction is dependent on peace and stability

Writing Thursday from Berlin, the tageszeitung said Germany should fight for a new Afghanistan strategy at the upcoming NATO summit in April.

"It should absolutely be expected that the government has the maturity to discuss the Afghanistan mission plainly with the parliament and the interested part of the public," the paper wrote. "In doing so, it may be said that Germany should have the maturity to shift the course of the Afghanistan mandate within NATO: more civilian reconstruction, less military.

"First of all, Germany should take responsibility for the promises it made a long time ago. Those who want to achieve a civil Afghanistan also have to train their police -- as promised," the tageszeitung opined.

"The Bundeswehr has to fill in the gaps everywhere," wrote the Süddeutsche Zeitung Thursday from Munich. "It is quickly sending combat troops because the Norwegians are withdrawing their soldiers. It's filling holes that the Czechs and Danes left. And more soldiers are being sent to Kunduz because the situation there has worsened.

"Pressure to join the fighting in the South has only temporarily subsided. But the majority won't accept that. It can be expected instead that the government compromises in the North and increases its mandate where possible," the paper concluded.

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