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Afghanistan: Germany's Role in Operation Enduring Freedom

61% of Germans believe it is time to pull out of Afghanistan. This sentiment is not limited to the political left, but shared across the political spectrum: Even 55% of Christian Democrat voters want the Bundeswehr to pull out.
The German government is not (yet) contemplating a full withdrawal from Afghanistan, but is committed to stay the course with ISAF. Though, some Social Democrats do not want to renew the Afghanistan mandate for Operation Enduring Freedom in September.

At Atlantic Community, a German parliamentarian and a blogger from Texas express two different opinions on the German debate on Afghanistan. 
Niels Annen, a young member of the Bundestag and a rising star in the SPD, questions Germany's continued involvement in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF):
Though the necessity of a military component in Afghanistan remains undisputed, both operations [ISAF and OEF] now seem increasingly incompatible. The [OEF] mandate’s legitimacy is in question: how long does the right of self-defense remain legitimate? The affiliation of ISAF and OEF-troops is becoming increasingly ambiguous, and not only for the Afghan population. Reports of uncoordinated military action among troops in Afghanistan are on the rise, and the coordination of command between the two operations is growing more difficult.
George Roper from Texas argues that
If Germany expects US help in the future, it must stay the course in Afghanistan now. The Bundeswehr should carry its share of the coalition burden without complaint as part of OEF. (...)
Americans are just becoming aware of the growing movement in Germany to pull away from Afghanistan, and they are just beginning to be angered by it. With time it will anger the United States Government as well.

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Greg on :

Too much John Edwards, perhaps. The War on Terror is but a bumper-sticker. Why send troops to fight another of "George Bush's wars"? Etc. etc. I'm one of those guys Roper describes: pissed at our supposed allies. F*** them. Hope they never need us. Again.

Zyme on :

First I find it always difficult to comment on the way the Afghanistan riddle can be solved because I have no practical insight into the real situation there. I guess only the forces there and our governments do have that insight. So I have no real idea whether the american or the german approach is more effective. But what I can tell for sure is that compared to the importance of the german reputation in the arabian world, this petty conflict certainly does not provide a reason for a harsh german engagement which might endanger our credibility in the muslim world. In this context americans like to refer to the point that transatlantic relations should be more important for Germany than its relations to the arabian world. I guess that´s right. But while in the arabian world good relations to governments are vital for the economical success of german companies, in the american land of a free market they are not.

Greg on :

What's important to the arabian world needs to change. Sympathy for al qaeda is high. That doesn't mean we should cater to that sympathy. The West needs to convince them that that sympathy is against their own interests. What kills me is that Germany isn't doing squat in Afghanistan anyway. Their troops aren't allowed to fire their weapons, and in any case, they are cordoned off in friendly Northern Alliance territory. The enemy has identified Germany as the weak link in the alliance. Germany caves when its citizens are kidnapped, which is why their citizens keep getting kidnapped. So the enemy thinks, "If Germany stays, great - more money and weapons; and if we push too hard, the worst that happens is that Germany leaves, which is good too." It's kind of like what AQ did to Spain to boot them from Iraq. Germany leaving won't improve its image in the arab world. Was Spain spared when it left Iraq? No - they seem to break up a new cell there every month. Appeasement NEVER works.

Leftclick on :

America isn't only losing in Iraq but also in Afghanistan unless it stops the appeasement of the terrorist hide-out #1: Pakistan! None of Afghanistans neighbors wishes foreign troops there, even the Afghans don't. So what can you expect from a country so unstable and so vulnerable against foreign interference? And hey! Who cares about what American rightwing sissies think about Germany? They are a minority in their own country, proven wrong again and again! NATO and OEF should leave Afghanistan or enter Waziristan and Northwest Frontier Province. Anything else is throwing the good money to the bad.

pen Name on :

30 years ago, before the Jacobin virus got to Afghanistan, people I knew traveled there from Iran. It was a hyper-provincial, hyper-conservative version of Iran. And it was safe and peaceful. But even then, there were social issues: a man would come back from US with an engineering degree and marry an illiterate woman (but from good family). This was unheard of in Iran, even in 1950s. Now, after 30 years of Revolution and War, the Afghan state has to be rebuilt from scratch - almost. Every bit of progress that was made socially and economically between 1950 to 1980 has been destroyed. Afghanistan is looking to be rebuilt over the next 40 to 60 years. It can only be rebuilt via economic interaction with her neighbours, specifically and importantly Iran. But US & EU are against Iran and thus Afghanistan is condemned to suffer while US & EU are pursuing their stupid Iran agenda. I realy feel sorry for Afghanistan and Afghan people since I recall that country asa functioning -albeit backwards- country.

Fuchur on :

re: GM Roper I pretty much agree with him, but there's one thing I don't like: There is no treaty obligation for German soldiers to be in Afghanistan. Therefore, one thing should be absolutely clear: The US doesn't come into this. When we put German lives on the line, the only relevant question is: Do [b]we[/b] believe in this mission, and do [b]we[/b] think it's worth the price. It would be despicable to send your soldiers into a war you don't believe in, just for "political" reasons. There should be no illusions anyway: No American president would ever send American soldiers into a war just out of "gratitude" for Germany. So, yes: Germany should stay. But not because the Americans want it, but because it's the right thing to do. re: Niels Annen Reminds me of the old joke about politicians: He talked a lot, and didn't say anything. [i]We must ask ourselves whether OEF—as an operation of the so-called “coalition of the willing” under American leadership—is still a sustainable model for engagement in Afghanistan and beyond.[/i] That's the CONCLUSION?? Well, excuse my confusion - but wasn't that kinda the QUESTION that you were supposed to answer in your essay?

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

I understand your frustration (?) with Annen. I think one can read between the lines in the quoted op-ed that he is against renewing the OEF mandate. Annen made such a statement in in a STERN interview, but was more cautious in the op-ed for Atlantic Community. Quote from Stern interview: "Das Mandat mit der Bezeichnung "Operation Enduring Freedom" war nach dem 11. September nötig, um die Taliban zu entmachten und die Al-Kaida-Lager in Afghanistan zu zerstören. Dieser Auftrag ist nun erfüllt. In den vergangenen Jahren ist OEF leider immer mehr zur Legitimierung der Antiterror-Kriegsführung der Amerikaner herangezogen worden. Ich denke, es wäre daher vernünftig, das Bundeswehr-Mandat für die "Operation Enduring Freedom" auslaufen zu lassen. " [url]http://www.nielsannen.de/cms/front_content.php?idcat=112&idart=337[/url]

Axel on :

The whole issue is far more complicated than described by Roper or Annen. Seems to me that especially Roper didn't get the logic and the red herring behind the actual political maneuvers of some German politicians. So what's the difference between OEF and ISAF? The rather misleading description of both of these military operations in German media typically goes as follows: 1. Operation Enduring Freedom is the official name used by the U.S. government for its military response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. The mandate for fighting terrorism is the OEF mandate. Germany is actually involved because of the KSK force in Afghanistan (OEF-A) and the marine ships that monitor, inspect, board and stop suspected shipments from entering the Horn of Africa region and areas of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF-HOA). OEF (better: the US) has been criticized from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop and German Defense Minister Franz-Josef Jung for causing a high number of civilian casualties and for the general secrecy of the KSK operations (and informally for the fact that it's US-led and Germans have nothing to say). For this, numerous German politicians have called for pulling back on support. The OEF mandate has to be renewed annually by the Bundestag. 2. NATO took command and co-ordination of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in August 2003. ISAF operates in Afghanistan under a UN mandate and will continue to operate according to current and future UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. Its goal is to help to bring security, stability and foster development in Afghanistan. Until July 2006, Germany provided the lion's share of the ISAF in Afganistan with now 3,000+ troops. Germany is leading Regional Command North from Mazari Sharif. The task of the German ISAF contribution is to assist the Afghan central government at the four northern provinces of Kunduz, Takhar, Baghlan and Badakhshan. Germany, who is actually leading the Provincial Reconstruction Teams at Kunduz and Feyzabad, has been very successful in building up infrastructure, schools and other municipal institutions. Additionally, six Tornado reconnaissance jets were deployed to Mazari Sharif in support of ISAF operations in the entiry country (RECCE). The ISAF mandate and the "Tornado mandate" both have to be renewed annually by the Bundestag. Actually, a great majority of members of all German parties except the completely irrelevant Linkspartei plan to vote this fall for an extension of the NATO mandate for the ISAF, but not for Germany's continued OEF participation because, as Annen puts it, "[t]he affiliation of ISAF and OEF-troops is becoming increasingly ambiguous, and not only for the Afghan population." Sounds reasonable for Joe Average from Germany - we will continue with the good work and will not get our hands dirty, especially under American command. Unfortunately, this simple picture is rather misleading. First, Germany's OEF participation is marginal. In the past two years the KSK hase not been called into action. But more important, during the last years, ISAF has expanded to [i]all[/i] provinces of the country, especially the casualty-heavy south, and former OEF troops (17,000 US troops for instance) were transferred to NATO command. So a sharp distinction between "fighting terrorism" (OEF) and "stabilization" (ISAF) is blurred. ISAF forces can encounter Al Qaeda operatives because the ISAF mandate is sufficiently vague to allow these types of operations to be conducted, and ISAF forces already have engaged in offensive operations, like Operation Medusa of August-September 2006 in the south. In my eyes, the whole debate in Germany about OEF vs. ISAF is a red herring. The relevant question is if the new ISAF mandate will allow the Bundeswehr to take part in the battle against the Taliban insurgency in the south and east of Afghanistan. The actual does this only "in exceptional circumstances". And exactly such a silent expansion is the driving force behind the proposal of Hans-Ulrich Klose (SPD) and and Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (CDU) or the related idea of Hans-Peter Bartels (SPD) to combine all three German missions under one ISAF mandate, respectively to integrate the KSK under ISAF mandate. So I guess we'll have a very lively debate that is focused about the KSK and OEF and "international solidarity and isolation" and that perhaps will lead to the decision to withdraw from OEF. And we'll probably have a debate about an increasement of the number of troops and, most likely, the number will be increased because of something like "any reduction in our engagement would be in principle very difficult to explain to our allies". Actually, the number of possible OEF troops according to the OEF mandate isn't exhausted, so this wouldn't be a severe problem. But I rather doubt that we'll hear much debate about the regions where the Bundeswehr will be operating under the new ISAF mandate.

GM Roper on :

Axel, that is an EXCELLENT report on the complicated issue in Afghanistan. And you are correct, not living in Germany, nor having a native grasp of the language, and being more involved in the political machinations in the US, I do not have a solid grasp of the issues from a German perspective, or perhaps from an internationalist perspective. On the other hand, Joerg Wolfe asked me to write a brief (fewer than 600 words) essay as to why I thought Germany belonged in Afghanistan and to do it quickly. I do know however, that America has spent treasure and lives in trying to bring freedom to many parts of the world only to see some individuals from those parts spit on the American flag, call us imperialists and otherwise denigrate the United States and that pisses me off, and may ultimately give the isolationists in this country more power. If that happens, the sole super-power in the world will be neutered and the world may well be at risk for increased tyranny. Are we the world's police? No, nor do we want to be, but it damn sure would be nice for a few others to step up to the plate without the second guessing, without the political crap and with a simple political goal: Never Again! Can that be a bad thing?

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