By Fabrizio Bensch
There are thousands of miles that separate the German soldiers in Afghanistan from home. For up to one year, they may be stationed in Afghanistan, but for most of them no more than four to five months.
The lead up to Christmas in Germany has a very long tradition and the arriving season is dominated by beautifully decorated shop windows in department stores and the smell of gingerbread and cinnamon. Christmas trees are festively illuminated in the streets with Christmas decoration and Christmas markets and Santa Claus are in every city.
But for the German armed forces Bundeswehr soldiers far away, each of them tries to maintain a little bit of these traditions and so everywhere in the camps are signs of Christmas.
Since December 1st, I’ve been embedded with the German armed forces in northern Afghanistan, where the Bundeswehr contingent has been operating along with other nations of the ISAF International Security Assistance Force. The Germans have changed how they provide security in the northern cities of Kunduz, the combat outpost observation point north and Mazar-e-Sharif in the last few years. The Bundeswehr has partnered with the Afghan security forces and is now more visible.
Whereas in the past , the operations against the Taliban in the north of the country were led by soldiers of the Bundeswehr, the Afghan army is now conducting their own operations.