Coalition forces – Germany

Coalition forces – Germany


The Federal Republic of Germany deployed 1,200 military personnel as part of the initial International Security Assistance Force deployment to Afghanistan in 2001. As of October 2008, Germany had approximately 3,500 troops deployed in Kabul and two Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Kunduz and Feyzabad, and held command of the ISAF Northern Regional Command based in Mazar-e-Sharif. In March 2007 Germany deployed six Tornado aircraft. Since 2007, German forces may be deployed outside the northern region on a short-term basis. About 100 special forces troops (KSK) are deployed in Afghanistan, but reportedly have not been used in combat for several years. Debate in Germany  over the Afghanistan deployment has been mounting, following increasing German and civilian casualties, and resistance to continuing American and NATO pressure for further deployments and relaxation of restrictlons on operations.

While in a coalition government with the Social Democratic Party, the Green Party under Foreign Minister Joska Fischer strongly supported the initial deployment as a humanitarian intervention to end gross violations of human rights. However the party base has since largely split from the leadership, calling for withdrawal.

Government sources

The Federal Government’s Afghanistan Policy, Federal Foreign Office, Federal Ministry of the Interior, Federal Ministry of Defence, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, 9 September 2008.

Reconstruction and security – Germany’s commitment in Afghanistan, Federal Foreign Office, Germany.

Afghanistan must not revert to its former role as a refuge for international terrorists. This is why Germany and the international community are helping Afghanistan to become a stable country whose people can live in safety and determine their own future. Our commitment there serves German, international and Afghan interests in equal measure.

The international community intervened in Afghanistan to end the tyrannical rule of the Taliban. The country’s rulers had made it a hub of international terrorism, and indeed the atrocities of 11 September 2001 were planned in Afghanistan. The regime of that time flouted human rights in the most blatant manner. Executions were staged as public spectacles. In their daily lives, people were disempowered and bullied. Women and girls had practically no access to education, careers or medical care. Even everyday pastimes were banned: kite-flying, the national sport, was proscribed, and listening to music was also prohibited. Afghanistan’s geographical situation as a staging post between Russia in the north and the Indian subcontinent in the south and between Iran in the west and China in the east has always been both a curse and a potential blessing. We are supporting Afghanistan in its efforts to become a factor for stability in that complex region.

Expansion of German involvement in Afghanistan (Kunduz, Feyzabad and Mazar-e-Sharif), Federal Foreign Office.

In keeping with the concept of provincial reconstruction teams originally developed by the US, Germany established a PRT in Kunduz in November 2003. Another PRT was set up in Feyzabad in early September 2004. The German PRTs have both a civilian (diplomats, police instructors and reconstruction volunteers) and a military component. Within the framework of the civilian engagement, Germany is supporting reconstruction efforts by state and non-state bodies. The focus of Germany’s involvement in the Kunduz and Feyzabad regions is promoting cooperation among local and regional agencies with the central government and strengthening civil-society structures. German police advisers are supporting the rebuilding of the police force in these regions.

The task of the military component is to create the safe climate needed for the reconstruction efforts. In keeping with the Bundestag decision (the latest dating from 12 October 2007), up to 3500 Bundeswehr soldiers are taking part in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, who are being deployed in Kabul and in the northern region. On the basis of the Bundestag mandate, German soldiers can also be deployed in other regions of the ISAF area of operation to provide assistance limited in duration and scope if this assistance is essential for the fulfilment of the overall ISAF mandate.



Germany Debates Afghanistan: Merkel Government Split ahead of Mandate Vote, Spiegel International Online, 12/27/2010

Most in Germany would like to see their troops return home from Afghanistan as soon as possible — and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has adopted the position as his own. But many in the government of Chancellor Merkel disagree and Westerwelle has powerful detractors. The issue that the foreign minister hopes will save him is Afghanistan, the most sensitive subject in German politics. Some 70 percent of German citizens are opposed to the further deployment of the German military in Afghanistan. As such, calling for a rapid withdrawal is an easy way to boost one’s popularity ratings, which is precisely what Westerwelle hopes to do. In his speech on Afghanistan last Thursday, he gave the impression that withdrawal will begin in late 2011 and the entire mission will be over by 2014. Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, is scheduled to vote on extending the country’s participation in Afghanistan by one year in a January vote.

Germany’s mission in Afghanistan, in other words, has become caught up in the maelstrom of domestic politics. It is the pawn in rivalries between the country’s largest political parties and between two government ministers — hardly an ideal situation for an issue that involves the lives of both German troops and Afghan citizens.

Merkel warns of ‘premature judgements’ of Afghan raid, Nicholas Kulish, New York Times, 8 September 2009

Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, pushed back Tuesday against international criticism over an airstrike ordered by German troops that claimed the lives of scores of people in northern Afghanistan, even as NATO announced that it appeared that civilians had been among those killed. Mrs. Merkel addressed Parliament in the face of growing scrutiny of the decision by a German commander to have American aircraft bomb two gas tanker trucks hijacked by the Taliban, in what could potentially be a contradiction to new rules intended to reduce civilian casualties.

While she “deeply regrets” any innocent victims, Mrs. Merkel said, she will not accept “premature judgments” about the airstrike. “After what I have experienced during the last few days, I say this quite clearly: I refuse to tolerate this, regardless from whom – both at home and abroad,” she said.

Germany begins to flex military muscle in Afghanistan, AFP, 9 May 2009

Rattled by increasingly brazen insurgent attacks in Afghanistan, German NATO troops have gone on the offensive with a rare raid to capture a Taliban commander and threatened to target more. Analysts say the more muscular posture comes not only in response to a growing threat but also a desire to quiet doubts in the United States and among other allies that Germany is fully committed to stabilising Afghanistan.

The German military is in Afghanistan to secure the country, Michael Scott Moore, Spiegel International, 30 April 2009

In the wake of Wednesday’s Taliban attack on German forces, commentators are losing patience with Berlin’s unwillingness to commit more soldiers to Afghanistan. The Taliban’s advance in Pakistan also has them worried.

German Foreign Minister Wants to End ‘Enduring Freedom’ Participation, Spiegel Online International, 6 October 2008.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is calling for his country to end its participation in the United States-led “Operation Enduring Freedom” anti-terror mission in Afghanistan. SPIEGEL reported over the weekend that the foreign minister wants to withdraw Germany’s KSK elite forces from Afghanistan.

With his proposal, Steinmeier — who is the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) candidate for chancellor in the 2009 — could trigger a new conflict within the grand coalition government, where the SPD is the junior partner to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats.

Up to 100 elite German Special Forces (KSK) soldiers have been stationed in Afghanistan since 2001 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, but during the past three years, they haven’t been deployed “a single time,” Steinmeier told SPIEGEL. “That’s why the KSK element should be taken out of the OEF manadate, which is set to be extended in November,” he said. Steinmeier justified his position by noting that it comes at the same time that Germany is planning to increase the number of troops it has participating in the ISAF stabilization forces. That force, he said, is “clearly” Berlin’s “primary focus.” This week, Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, is expected to debate a proposal to increase the number of German troops deployed in Afghanistan by 1,000 soldiers to a total of about 4,500.

Germany Discovers a War in Afghanistan, Spiegel Online International, 6 October 2008.

Kunduz, of all places, is where the Germans and the rest of the world had hoped to prove that the war against terrorism could also be waged with peaceful means. It is a place where German soldiers could have been mistaken for aid workers, if it weren’t for their weapons — where men in camouflage built schools, delivered supplies to hospitals and dug wells, while their NATO allies in the country’s south and west waged a brutal and costly war. Those allies whose troops were stationed in Kunduz managed to avoid the deadly W word — W as in War — or so it seemed. The coalition governments in Germany, under former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and now under Chancellor Angela Merkel, had various terms for what the Bundeswehr was doing in Afghanistan, calling it “networked security,” a “civilian-military approach,” “stabilization” and “reconstruction assistance.” But the W word was one they preferred not to use. Two-thirds of German citizens are opposed to the Bundeswehr’s Afghanistan mission, and politicians in Berlin read opinion polls more often than reports on the military situation. But now, after the death of a young German paratrooper at the end of August and the first civilian casualties at the hands of German soldiers a few days later, Bernhard Gertz, the chairman of the German Armed Forces Federation, has finally uttered the unmentionable word.

More German troops to Afghanistan, Judy Dempsey and Alan Cowell, International Herald Tribune, 25 June 2008.

Under pressure from NATO, Germany announced Tuesday that it would increase the number of soldiers available for duty in Afghanistan by almost one-third to 4,500, but that it would maintain its policy of keeping the bulk of them away from the relatively violent southern provinces. Franz Josef Jung, the German defense minister, said the government wanted to increase the number of troops it could send to Afghanistan by 1,000, after a parliamentary limit of 3,500 expires in October. The increase is subject to the approval of the lower house of Parliament, the Bundestag.

Still on the way to Afghanistan? Germany and its forces in the Hindu Kush, Sebastian Merz, SIPRI, November 2007.

Ed: A comprehensive and detailed analysis.

Germany’s Green Party Split Over Afghanistan Mandate, Deutsche Welle, 17 September 2007.

At special party congress in the central German city of Göttingen, a majority of 800 delegates rejected the party leadership’s position by voting against its motion to unconditionally approve the planned extension of the German Army’s mandate in Afghanistan. Green party chairman Reinhard Bütikofer warned delegates that an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan “would not bring peace but a new escalation of violence, war and civil war.” But, instead, the party base decided that its representatives in the German parliament must vote against continued use of the army in Afghanistan if fighting was involved. While the decision cannot actually affect Germany’s current foreign policy — since Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government does not need opposition votes for a renewal of the troop’s mandate next month — it is indicative of the deep split which has developed within the Greens.

Project coordinator: Richard Tanter
Additional research: Arabella Imhoff
Ronald Li
Updated: 18 April 2010