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MILITARY

Media roundup: Libya after Qaddafi

As the end of Libyan despot Muammar Qaddafi reign nears, commentators in The Local’s media roundup examine what’s next for the North African country and the impact of Germany’s decision to break with its NATO allies.

Media roundup: Libya after Qaddafi
Photo: DPA

Time appeared to be running out for Qaddafi on Tuesday, even if parts of his regime appeared prepared to fight to the bitter end.

But with the rebels controlling large parts of the Libyan capital Tripoli, discussion in Germany had already turned to what will come after the quixotic dictator.

The decision by the United States, Britain and France to use air strikes and a no-fly zone to protect civilians and help the rebels fighting Qaddafi’s forces would now appear to be vindicated.

German foreign policy, however, has been left in tatters following the country’s controversial decision last March not to support a UN resolution authorizing force against Qaddafi and refusing to take part in the ensuing military intervention coordinated by NATO.

After causing consternation among Berlin’s closest allies, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle have been attempting to repair the damage ever since. But both expressed unease this week about Germany’s potential role in a post-Qaddafi Libya.

Many newspapers in The Local’s media roundup on Tuesday said Germany’s refusal to get involved looked even worse now in hindsight, even if Libya’s immediate future remained far from certain.

The conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote that Germany’s diplomatic disaster will not simply disappear with Qaddafi.

“Berlin’s credibility on security issues has suffered long-term damage. Without a doubt, Qaddafi would have bloodily crushed the uprising … had NATO not intervened. The intervention was only possible because the UN Security Council took decisive action – a rare exception. That German diplomacy failed at just this moment, abandoning European partners Britain and France and breaking Western unity by abstaining, will have repercussions.”

The right-wing daily Die Welt hailed Qaddafi’s ousting even as it cautioned Libya’s fate was far from secure.

“But not even the blackest future that one can now imagine for Libya could justify another day of Qaddafi’s terror regime. The triumph of the Libyan revolution leaves Germany’s foreign policy disgraced to its core. Only the NATO air war – that Germany with national-pacifistic hubris boycotted – ensured the victory of the rebels.”

Münster’s regional daily the Westfälische Nachrichten said Germany now had little choice but to become involved in Libya’s reconstruction.

“After caving at the beginning of the Libyan mission in March, Berlin now apparently wants to use an opportune moment to rehabilitate its reputation. If the Germans want to skim some of the economic cream from the new order in Libya, Defence Minister (Thomas de Maizière) will hardly be able to avoid joining an international peacekeeping force.”

Berlin’s Der Tagesspiegel said even opponents of the NATO mission had to be glad it was successful in the end. But the centrist daily warned the West not to abandon Libya.

“In light of the less-than-encouraging developments in Afghanistan, it’s astonishing how carefree the West allowed itself to become involved in Libya. Libya, however, is on Europe’s doorstep. And it has oil. Strategically it’s more important for us to ensure stability around Tripoli and Benghazi than in Kandahar. At the very least, it shouldn’t be less important to us.”

The Local/mry

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MILITARY

US Congress moves to block Trump’s withdrawal of troops from Germany

US lawmakers have announced a bill that would delay the withdrawal of US troops until after President Donald Trump has left office, thus opening a door to a reversal of a decision announced by Trump in the summer.

US Congress moves to block Trump's withdrawal of troops from Germany
A US soldier in Grafenwöhr, Bavaria. Photo: DPA

The National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA), which still needs to pass through the US Congress, specifies that a troop withdrawal can only happen 120 days after the defence secretary presents a report to Congress analysing whether the troop withdrawal is in the US national interest.

In June, President Trump announced plans to withdraw close to 12,000 of the 36,000 US troops based in Germany, citing Berlin’s failure to meet its NATO spending commitments.

As Trump is to leave office on January 20th, to be replaced by Democrat Joe Biden, the bill casts doubt on the entire troop withdrawal.

READ ALSO: Trump 'to withdraw thousands of US soldiers from Germany by end of 2020'

Trump still has the chance to veto the bill, something he indicated that he would do on Wednesday, although the objections he cited in a Twitter post did not reference the block on his troop withdrawal plans. A two thirds majority in Congress could then overturn his veto.

Trump's plans met with criticism from the US military top brass, as well as from his own Republican party. In Congress, both Democrats and Trump's Republicans announced their opposition to the plans.

The bill now states that Congress continues to value Germany as a strong NATO partner. The presence of the “approximately 34,500 members of the U.S. armed forces stationed in Germany” serves as an important deterrent against Russia's expansionist ambitions in Europe, it states. 

The bill further states that the U.S. troops in Germany are of central importance for supporting U.S. missions in the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan.

A few weeks after Trump's announcement, the now dismissed US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper made it clear that the plans were to be implemented “as quickly as possible”. As yet though, there has been no troop reduction.

A good half of the 12,000 soldiers were to be recalled to the USA, while 5,600 were to be transferred to other NATO countries.

Three locations in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Rhineland-Palatinate would be particularly hard hit by the plans: Stuttgart, Vilseck and Spangdahlem.

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