Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Germany slips up again in Afghanistan

April 4, 2010
(German soldiers in Afghanistan salute as a helicopter carrying coffins of their fallen comrades departs)

(German soldiers in Afghanistan salute as a helicopter carrying coffins of their fallen comrades departs)

Germany has slipped up again in Afghanistan, mistakenly killing five Afghan soldiers after losing three of its own soldiers in a gunfight with insurgents in the northern province of Kunduz. For a nation with little appetite for a war 3,000 miles away, the losses couldn’t come at a worse time. Germany is still feeling the repercussions of  an incident in September in which its forces called in a U.S. air strike that killed scores of people, at least 30 civilians,  the deadliest incident involving German forces since World War 11.

But just what is Germany up against in Kunduz? While the intensity of the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan’s southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand has received the most attention, the situation in the Germans part of the north has deteriorated rapidly. Soldiers earlier on could patrol in unarmored vehicles. Now there are places where they cannot move even in armored vehicles without an entire company of soldiers according to this story.

Indeed the Taliban have made a dramatic comeback in Kunduz just as they come under pressure in the south, according to this report in the Washington Post. Local officials and residents say two of the province’s districts are almost completely under Taliban control. There, girls’ schools have been closed down, women are largely prohibited from venturing outdoors unless they are covered from head to toe, and residents are forced to pay a religious “tax”, usually amounting to 10 percent of their meager wages.  (You would have to wonder, again, the wisdom of seeking reconciliation with the Taliban given their extreme view  of women is unchanged, but that’s a separate issue at the moment).

Kunduz is also critical because a NATO supply line from Tajikistan runs through the province. In January German Chancellor Angela Merkel committed an additional 500 troops to Afghanistan on top of the 4,300 already in theatre and in February Germany’s Bundestag lower house of parliament voted to increase its troop count in Afghanistan, up to 850, which would raise its mandate for the country to a total of 5,350 soldiers. Furthermore, in recent weeks the United States military has said that at least part of the additional troops ordered by President Obama under the surge will be deployed to Kunduz.

A post on The New York Times At War blog a few months ago put things in perspective, showing just how inadequate the force size had been in northern Afghanistan. The regional command north, which Germany heads, has just 6,000 NATO soldiers, 8,000 members of the Afghan National Army and 12,000 members of the Afghan National Police, trying to control an area of more than 60,000 square miles, or roughly half the size of Germany, with 11 million inhabitants, it said.

By contrast, New York City’s 305 square miles and 8 million residents (where, incidentally, there is no insurgency and no unforgiving mountain range) has roughly 34,000 officers keeping the peace. No wonder it’s the Taliban who call the shots.

One former German army chief said merely bolstering the troop numbers in Kunduz wasn’t enough. German troops need better equipment such as a reconnaissance system to avoid incidents such as the killing of Afghan troops in friendly fire.  Harald Kujat, who was the Bundeswehr’s Chief of Staff from 2000 to 2002, blasted the government for having learnt nothing from the Kunduz air strike about reconnaissance and communication systems, and said the “friendly fire” killing of six Afghan soldiers could have been avoided.


Germany should not be there. It is not their fight. It serves no interest of the German or the European people. The US is going it’s way, so let it go. They are not us. We must focus on building a Europe for Europeans. Everyone else can go. Emigrants from Europe have become aliens.

Posted by mcarter | Report as abusive

Hey, at least they are trying


Oh mcarter,
that’s no impressive argument. Americans and other emigrants from Europe are no aliens. The problem is that Germany is becoming again a military power. German politicians should have made the world to understnd that, after WW II the vast majority of the German people doesn’t want to get engaged in any war. It was a desaster for my country that the Cold War led to a rearmement of East and West Germany.

A strong political support by Germany is much better for The US than a disastrous military help.

Otto Kern
DE-37412 Herzberg-the Esperanto city

Posted by Otto Kern | Report as abusive

Germany shouldn’t have been involved in World War 11, any more than they ought to be in this one. Maybe by World War 13 they’ll have learned to stay out of the bringing-democracy-by-means-of-massacre business, and leave all that stuff to died in the wool war criminals.

Posted by The Bell | Report as abusive

The German Govt. is endeavouring to get rid of the American nukes on their soil. The next step would be to get rid of the US military which is stationed in Germany. The German reich is today controlling the economies of Europe, and before expanding their control in political arena of the greater Europe they still need to clear some hurdles. The 21st century Germany is going to be stronger than ever in their history. The Genie is slowly but surely coming to life once again.

Posted by rex minor | Report as abusive

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