Afghanistan hurting military recruitment efforts

Fears over duty in Afghanistan are reportedly leading to a shortage of recruits for Germany’s army, which for years was excused from the world’s conflicts because it served as a Cold War buffer.

Afghanistan hurting military recruitment efforts
New recruits are sworn in recently in Berlin Photo: DPA

After having a surplus of would-be officers and enlisted men last year, the Bundeswehr this year has seen a decline in applicants of as much as 62 percent in some branches, the Rheinische Post reported Thursday.

Just Wednesday a German soldier was killed and three wounded in northern Afghanistan, where Germany has stationed 3,500 career soldiers as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

“That makes your blood run cold,” the Rheinische Postan unnamed officer told the paper. “Especially for those that know that they’ll be down there in the next year or two.”

The personnel shortage is especially pronounced among doctors and pilots, who are leaving for more comfortable positions in the private sector, according to the paper.

The country’s career soldiers remain a throwback to the détente of the ‘80s when they felt they were prepared to fight so that they wouldn’t have to. The country still requires all young men to do time in the armed forces, but only those that volunteer for duty currently see combat.

A Bundeswehr spokesman said a variety of issues, not just Afghanistan, are to blame for the shortages. “If your Christmas bonus is halved, a staff sergeant starts to get ideas,” Wilfried Stolze told the paper.

Germany’s Afghanistan policy is controversial in Germany, which earlier this year rebuffed calls to help out in the more dangerous southern areas. Parliament will review the country’s activities in Afghanistan later this year, but no major changes are expected.

Twenty-eight German soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since the Bundeswehr stationed troops there in 2002, according to DPA.