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Staying the course in Afghanistan

The Local · 28 Jan 2010, 11:15

Published: 28 Jan 2010 11:15 GMT+01:00

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Berlin and its allies are supposed to agree to a new strategy for Afghanistan in London on Thursday. But the Germans only appear to be willing to consider how quickly they can withdraw their troops from the strife-torn country.

A swift exit certainly would find strong domestic backing, but such a move would do little to advance the objectives of the mission in Afghanistan. Instead, the government and opposition should come together to discuss soberly what can be achieved and then provide the funds necessary to make it happen.

Germany supplies the third-largest military force in Afghanistan. But the allies aren’t happy that German troops have long been kept away from the real fighting by refusing to wade into the embattled regions in the southern and eastern corners of the country. This would have been possible under guidelines for providing emergency assistance according to the mission’s parliamentary mandate. But this is where Germany’s Afghanistan policy reaches its limits, and is made all too clear by the cautious proposals Berlin is taking to the London conference.

The Germans stubbornly cling to their position even though it has led to considerable friction within NATO. For years, the Germans have avoided a confrontation by gradually expanding the scope of its overly restrictive mandate. This has reduced Germany’s influence within the transatlantic alliance. Even now, with an eye to the new US strategy for Afghanistan, the game continues.

What’s really needed is a new orientation on the mission’s objectives, not on a quick end to the military deployment. Germany should focus on the long-term stability of Afghanistan in London and not a premature deadline for the timing and pace of the Bundeswehr’s eventual withdrawal. Commitments in London should show Germany will remain committed until success has been achieved – but what’s being proposed by Berlin at the London conference simply won’t be enough. There needs to be more operational flexibility.

Nobody expects the Germans to take over the regional command in the south, but Berlin should give up its position of keeping its troops limited strictly to the north. The idea that the Germans could avoid the challenges faced by Americans or British was proven to be a falsehood by the deadly air strike last Septeberm near Kunduz. The German military should be present where it can confront the Taliban. Using combat troops for training purposes is effectively tantamount to avoiding Germany’s military responsibilities in Afghanistan.

The government must also offer financial incentives for volunteers from state police officers to spend time in Afghanistan and cover the complete costs of their training missions. The states now have to cover the foreign deployment and cannot fund replacements back at home.

But security in Afghanistan also has to be filled with life. Rebuilding efforts have to continue, even in combat zones, to show Afghans there is hope.

Story continues below…

Germany has the opportunity in London to commit to reasonable objectives for a determined mission. But a strategic discussion in Berlin about truly ensuring peace and stability in Afghanistan is long overdue.

Dr. Henning Riecke is a member of the Security Policy department of the German Council on Foreign Relations. Translation by The Local.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

15:29 January 28, 2010 by Major B
Thoughtful and coherent points above, presently soberly. All major points covered. Bravo Dr. Riecke for making this statment now, hopefully with the support of the German Council on Foreign Relations. Does the government have the courage and foresight to adjust policy, and engage the German people and the Bundestag?
16:12 January 28, 2010 by Frenemy
@Major B:

20:38 January 28, 2010 by Major B
@ Frenemy

If you are right then this is trully sad.

I've got to believe there are some German patriots who see this historic opportunity. On these opinion pages someone wrote recently "this is the first time in a 100 hundred years the German army was on the right side." It is right to focus on training police and the the PRT's efforts, the reality is that there is a vibrant a capable enemy who despises the West -- all of us.

It appears Europeans have already given up free speech and can't even publish "creative" cartoons about how a great religion has been distorted by a few fanatics, who see no difference in the bombing of New York and Madrid and would love to do the same to Paris, London and Berlin.
00:46 January 29, 2010 by Frenemy
@Major B:

"I've got to believe there are some German patriots who see this historic opportunity"

-->there are! like me for example!!!. ;-)

"distorted by a few fanatics, who see no difference in the bombing of New York and Madrid and would love to do the same to Paris, London and Berlin."

-->yep, once again they already did. (berlin not yet) Londonistan=already done, Paris=yep, car-burnings ringing any bells...?
18:12 January 29, 2010 by scargill was right
i fought on the allied side in ww11 and whilst we recognised the fighting skills and bravery of the german soldiers there was one achilles heel that german soldiers could not seem to overcome. at night german soldiers had the habit of getting indoors,whilst our lot slept in the open in the cold and rain, the germans

simply didnt. many germans lost their liberty and lives because of this.

my grandson who is in afghanistan with the british army says that the german soldiers are still staying in at night , holding no new ground and losing respect from othe nations. come on guys your soldiers are being seen as softies
20:49 January 29, 2010 by Major B
Wanted to leave this alone, was hesitant to comment in the beginning. There is a conference in London right now, where the major parties involved in Afghanistan are working to cement its future. It's common knowledge that it will certainly take much more than a military solution! Several governments, Germany included, have proposed to support Taliban soldiers who will change sides. Karzai himself is reaching out to low level soldiers who joined the Taliban for economic reasons. While I criticized this at first, a "divide and conquer" strategy makes since. The hardcore and recalcitrant will meet the fate many of their brethren already have and earn a deep and long long sleep.

Just saying it hasn't been done before or that others have failed is no reason not to try. If anyone thinks the Americans will allow a movement that allowed Al Quaeda to train freely and attack it's territory to live healthily -- you are dreaming. The Americans will never leave the hardcore Taliban or Al Quaeda alone -- Never Ever!!!

Lastly, in 1945 many thought democracy would never take root in Germany. "The Germans are too prone to obey authority" and democracy in not in their blood/culture they said. We know how that story ended, bless the Marshall Plan and are very proud of the results.

Yes there are many cultural differences between a Western European culture and a Cental Asian one but the yearning to for opporunity and free expression lives within all humans.

Let's support the London conference and hope it's results yield a blue print for a true future for Afghanistan.
21:22 January 29, 2010 by Prufrock2010
@ Major B

You wrote: "...the yearning to for opporunity and free expression lives within all humans."

With all due respect, that is not the case with the Taliban or other Islamic fundamentalists. In point of fact, it is their stated intention to kill all who do not embrace their particular form of religious fanaticism, and it is quite evident that they are serious. Freedom of expression does not exist in their universe.

As to al Qaeda, please remember that al Qaeda was a creation of Bin Laden with American financing and arming during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. At the time it served American purposes. Now it is the avowed enemy of all things that (presumably) you and I believe in. And it is ubiquitous. It knows no geographical borders. It has declared war on all of us who do not share its fanatical beliefs.

Appeasement failed in 1939. It will certainly fail again, no matter how lofty our intentions or noble our ideals. It is a matter of life and death for everyone involved. It cannot be bartered, particularly with a broker as corrupt as Karzai.
17:02 January 30, 2010 by bernie1927
Frenemy and MajorB.

You may want to check out a video that runs on YouTube.

I was not allowed to give you the link, but you can go to YT and type into the search: "Bill Moyers Journal/Greg Mortenson" Then pick the one that has the time of "31:08"

If you haven't heard of Greg, he has lived among the Afghans for many years and has been recognized as "the" authority on Afghanistan and Pakistan, even by our military brass. He has written a book "Three cups of tea" that is an absolute must to read. This interview will show how corrupt the Afghan government is, but it will also tell you that Afghanistan has never lost any of the many wars they have had. He also has some very interesting points to make about the Taliban.

Happy reading

18:49 January 30, 2010 by Major B
1st paragraph, 2nd to last sentence in my last comments - "sense" not "since"

@ Prufrock 2010 _ Really do know the all present facts you cite. Yes, they are true. Quick note on nations/cultures who produced great ideas , literature, technology etc. in the past and now are but a shadow of their former selves. We all know examples but let's look at the ancient monuments etc. like the stature of Budha the Taliban blew up. The reflect a culture with ideas, creativity sophistication. One of the greatest spiritual masters of all time, Rumi, hailed from Afghanistan. How does it happen that the children fall so far from the elegance of the parents? We can discuss why for days but the point is the potential is there. Sometimes outsiders are chosen to assist a nation (Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo,) in the advancement of our earth.

Agree the Taliban is a fanatical, senseless excuse of a movement that is locked in timewarp. That's why I say that those of them who want to continue their ways will find their way to grave.
10:01 February 1, 2010 by Frenemy
@major b: I'm a good summaritan and will gladly help these guys into the afterlife!!!

@bernie: buddy, they haven't lost any wars cuz the combat terrain ranges from bad to shitty!!!
16:24 February 1, 2010 by Henckel
@ Frenemy: The last point is an excellent reason for all NATO forces to get out of Afghanistan. Even Alexander the Great had to buy them off.
16:55 February 1, 2010 by bernie1927
@Frenemy: Of course you are right. We should have learned something, but instead, we supported and trained and supplied Osama and his goons and called them "Freedom Fighters" and now we have the enviable task of training a bunch of ignorant peasants who can neither read nor write and have a 50% desertion rate. Great strategists! Why don't we get the hell out of there?
16:56 February 1, 2010 by Frenemy

I'd like to think that NATO central command or JSOC/SOCOM has better toys than Alexander!!!!! ;-)
18:14 February 1, 2010 by Major B
If I remember correctly days and days of bombing by B-52's caused the Taliban to "flee" for the hills from Kabul in Oct 01.

@ Bernie1927_ True, NATO wants to get the "hell" out of there, especially the Americans. But they will never allow a fanatical Taliban government to take root there again. It may take 5 years for the Central government to get strong enough. If the allies want to pay for that... fine.

And if British had in the 1800's had the capabilities SOCOM(and NATO) has there now, the Sun might still be shining on the Empire.
19:25 February 1, 2010 by Frenemy
I agree with you as usual homeboy (but don't you think the Incas, Aztecs, Dutch or the Portuguese might be thinking the same thing about the same thing in terms of empire retention??)
19:54 February 1, 2010 by Malmoman
All I know is that when I went to SFI I studied with a wonderful woman from Afghanistan. A really warm and modern example. She was so concerned about the plight of the women there. I wonder why we don't talk about this more. I really hope life does get better for them. Whether or not his is done through combat I really don't know.
00:57 February 2, 2010 by wenddiver
I know this much, Germany sells a lot of cars in the US and France doesn't. I don't think adopting Frances' position will help Germany longterm.

It helps Germany's economy to be thought of asone of the allies and friend of Israel. The alternatives of being on the side that is against Freedom would be another disaster. If the Allies win in Afganistan Germany regret not being there on stage.
02:50 February 2, 2010 by Frenemy
....and that weapon in the pic? point-defense against what exactly?? mules??? lol, ridiculous!!!
05:58 February 4, 2010 by wenddiver
Looking at the Picture I have to ask When did Larry the Cable Guy join the German Army?" In case your wondering what we look like in North West Florida, that's it, right down to the ball cap.

Get 'er done!
13:40 February 5, 2010 by tollermann
Hey MAJORB "It appears Europeans have already given up free speech and can't even publish "creative" cartoons about how a great religion has been distorted by a few fanatics, who see no difference in the bombing of New York and Madrid and would love to do the same to Paris, London and Berlin."

Great religion? Pleaseee.....enough of the politically correct dogma. MO-and his preachings from the beginning were used to oppress and kill any who stood in their way. If you will look at history books, they will show Saudi Arabia had a vibrant Jewish and Christian Community more than 600 years before Islam.

As for point defense, it is the

20:45 February 7, 2010 by Britpat
Few people in the UK still support ghastly this war, it was sold on lies and bogus facts by Tony Blair and a few close allies. All completely undemocratic. Parliament and Cabinet debate was sidelined and public protest ignored. The local Afghans never wanted us, and now that we have killed and displaced so many civilians we are more hated than ever. In Britain we admired the French and Germans for staying out of it as much as they dared; we realized that you have intense pressures from nato and had to do a bit as a token.

It is utterly depressing to me that now Germany is starting to take a more active and larger role. This whole adevnture was doomed from the start, many nations have failed in this part of the world to impose their own social order, and this latest attempt is the worst sort of neo-colonialism and murder. Why can we just not accept that not every society wants to be forced to copy our own fake civilization, with all its manifest problems and silliness.

I urge you all, think again, and do not get in any deeper. The UK has lost hundreds of young men and thousands have had life ruining injuries, for what, just adding more suffering and destruction to a poor unfortunate country still reeling from decades of endless war initiated by foreigners. What have we done so far? Imposed a gangster with no real support from the public, and trashed most of the infra structure, whilst wasting billions of dollars and beggaring our own economies. Re-think now before it is too late.
23:07 February 9, 2010 by Bushdiver
Granted that this is probably a waste of time and money much like in Iraq. When the US finally pulls out I don't think it will take much more than a year for things to return to the way it was before. I think it would be wise as well to get out and let them handle their own problems. BTW, this isn't the same German Army of 65 years ago. Todays German military is but a shadow of what it once was.

@scargill was right

I doubt the Germans on the Eastern Front were getting a warm rest at night in some building.
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