Παρασκευή, 10 Ιουλίου 2009

German Troops Beef Up Fight against Taliban

German Troops Beef Up Fight against Taliban
Behind closed doors, the German government is slowly but surely changing the rules for combat on Afghanistan, allowing its forces to take a more offensive approach. At the same time, German popular support for the "war" that no one wants to call a war continues to decline. Every night, the soldiers leave the run-down police station in Chahar Darreh and head out in search of the enemy, passing through silent mountain villages in countryside crisis-crossed by two wide rivers and a multitude of smaller waterways. The area they patrol is home primarily to ethnic Pashtuns, it is about 15 kilometers (9 miles) long and 5 kilometers (3 miles) wide. The police station in Chahar Dara, where German Special Forces have established a small base, is a few kilometers from the German military, or Bundeswehr, field camp in Kunduz. The road there -- affectionately known as "Road Little Pluto" in military jargon -- crosses the high, sandy Western plateau and supply trips to, and from, the base are at least as dangerous as the nightly patrols. The Bundeswehr's armor-plated vehicles -- with names like Dingo, Mungo and Fuchs (Fox) -- struggle slowly down the dirt roads, in full view of the enemy for whom surrounding farms, cornfields and tall bushes are simply better camouflage. The Americans launched a new offensive in the southern province of Helmand last week but German troops see most of their action in Chahar Dara in the north. They regularly encounter homemade roadside bombs and face firefights -- and they are both killing and being killed. In Chahar Dara a dusty area of about 75 square kilometers (27 square miles), Germany is waging a war -- even though it isn't supposed to be called a war. Memorial services were held in Bad Salzungen, a city in central Germany, last week for three soldiers killed nine days earlier in an accident, during a skirmish in Chahar Dara. And early this week Chancellor Angela Merkel presented four soldiers with the Ehrenkreuz, the Bundeswehr's cross of honor, in recognition of their courageous efforts to assist fellow soldiers after a suicide bombing in Chahar Dara. Two of their comrades died. In the past, such awards were referred to as Orden, or medals, but in modern Germany they resist that description. Mainly this is because of historical associations with the role of the Wehrmacht, the armed forces of the Third Reich, during World War II and the Holocaust. And avoiding any mention of Germany's military history shapes the nation's current mission in Afghanistan, just as it shapes debate about the mission. War cannot be referred to as war -- and it must be conducted in as un-warlike a fashion as possible. The German public is increasingly skeptical about the Bundeswehr's mission in Afghanistan. About 70 percent of Germans are currently in favor of a rapid withdrawal. In reality, the opposite is taking place. The Bundeswehr is becoming more entrenched in this war and it is also gradually going on the offensive.
German Combat Missions: Like a Turtle With Teeth
According to information SPIEGEL has obtained, the rules of engagement have been -- and are still being -- revised. The impression is that the German deployment is a peacekeeping operation engaged in what is referred to as a "stabilization mission." But in fact recent events suggest that the Bundeswehr's mission in Afghanistan is, surreptitiously, becoming more aggressive.This shift is another move towards the normalization of Germany's feelings about itself as a nation. It's something that German governments have been working toward for 60 years. And in many respects, the country is already there -- so now is the time for Germany to consider military matters. This is one of the most difficult areas for Germans to contemplate -- after all, there was a time when German soldiers were best known for their terrible assault on most of the rest of the world.

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