Saturday, September 22, 2007

The German Problem

Their military gets it,
SPIEGEL ONLINE: From the outside, it often looks as if the aggressive waging of this war is further enflaming the insurgency.

Kasdorf: I repeat: Pulling out of OEF would not be helpful. It bothers the Americans when Europeans accuse them of waging the war in a brutal fashion. If there were no OEF, the insurgency would gain strength in the country and they would consider themselves unopposed here, which could also threaten ISAF'sISAF we don't have the forces to go after the extremists alone. At the same time, fighting terror is not our mandate.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The Germans have announced that they will get more involved with building up the security forces. At the same time, however, they absolutely refuse to send their soldiers into the contested south. But international instructors working with the Afghan national army regularly go with their battalions on military missions even after the training is finished. Is that an irresolvable dilemma?

Kasdorf: The limitations that the Germans have placed upon themselves are not regarded as optimal here. If a country takes over reconstruction responsibilities, its teams can, in an emergency, be replaced by reserve units if the Afghans go into battle. That's what we're really talking about here. When all the countries on a mission go into conflict areas and then a few of them say that they're only going to do something very specific, it becomes difficult. We must realize that the rest of Afghanistan, including the north, will only be safe when we have succeeded in the east and south.
success. Here at
The German people however,
SPIEGEL: The controversy in Germany is focused on the counterterrorismOEF). As part of this operation, there have repeatedly been air attacks that have often claimed civilian lives, which only help to reinforce the Taliban's propaganda.

Schneiderhan: It is, of course, regrettable when there are casualties among innocent civilians, and we must do everything in our power to prevent this from happening. But we must distinguish between cause and effect. The cause is that the terrorists are attacking us, thereby forcing our troops to defend themselves. Furthermore, our enemies are civilians who wear no uniforms or national emblems. They deliberately misuse innocent people as shields in order to bring our soldiers into disrepute. And they are pleased to see that hardly anyone mentions the victims of their vicious attacks.

SPIEGEL: Nevertheless, many in Germany are critical of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Schneiderhan: That's too simplistic. I am much more concerned that the terrorists are misusing public opinion for their purposes and are thereby gaining the upper hand.

SPIEGEL: Opinion polls show that the tactic is working. The majority of Germans want German forces to withdraw from Afghanistan. Many members of parliament plan to vote this fall for an extension of the NATO mandate for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), but not for Germany's continued participation in the counterterrorism operation.

Schneiderhan: From a military point of view, OEF continues to be necessary. The terrorists are still trying to maintain strongholds in Afghanistan and in the regions along the border with Pakistan. They want to use force to prevent Afghanistan from being stabilized. The mandate for fighting terrorism is the OEF mandate. The idea behind the ISAF mission is different. However, the more successful the counterterrorism operation is, the safer and more successful ISAF will be. And the more successful ISAF is, the less we'll need the counterterrorism mission.

SPIEGEL: Would our allies understand a decision to withdraw from OEF?

Schneiderhan: For Germany, Operation Enduring Freedom has a lot to do with international solidarity. In my opinion, a withdrawal would be a catastrophe in terms of our alliances.

Kasdorf is Major Gen. Bruno Kasdorf from the ISAF headquarters in Kabul, the highest-ranking German officer at ISAF. Schneiderhan is General Wolfgang Schneiderhan, 60, Germany's highest-ranking officer in the Bundeswehr (German Army). Both these men are some of the best professional soldiers you will find - but they serve politicians who with their media friends have ill informed the German people - a German people who have grown custom to have others defend them.

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