Col. Bernhard Gertz, chairman of the group representing the interests of members of the German military, defended the government’s resistance to demands by Berlin’s NATO allies not join the intense fighting in the southern part of the country.
“The belief that the battle against terrorism in the south can be won militarily is as realistic as the attempt to ride a dead horse,” Gertz told a press conference in Berlin on Tuesday.
Germany so far refuses to send combat troops to help American, British, Canadian and Dutch soldiers, who have borne the brunt of casualties fighting the radical Islamist Taliban and their Al Qaida allies in southern Afghanistan. Most of Germany’s soldiers in the country are stationed in the relatively calmer north.
But Gertz said Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government still needed to increase the maximum limit of troops that can be deployed in Afghanistan to at least 4,000 or the Bundeswehr could not hope to ensure stability in the north either.
“There are signs of serious differences between the military and political leadership,” Gertz said. “We don’t have the ability to fight off attackers.”
Currently the parliamentary mandate allows only 3,500 soldiers in the country, meaning the Bundeswehr will be forced to move some specialist troops elsewhere in order for a new Quick Reaction Force of 250 men to be deployed in July.
However, Gertz said because of the government’s negligence in ensuring the German forces are properly outfitted with artillery and key transport equipment, “the security situation had deteriorated” in the north.
“Those in charge of ensuring the safety and security of the north can’t responsibly act this way,” he said.
But Inspector General Wolfgang Schneiderhan, the Bundeswehr’s top officer, rejected Gertz’ harsh criticism of Germany’s military operations in Afghanistan. “I can carry the responsibility,” he told news agency DDP, adding that the German armed forces had “thoroughly considered” its strategy in the country. “The troops have what they need.”