"Drunken superiors, life-threatening vehicle training on mined territory and a vigorous trading of beer for United States military intelligence -- these are part of a long list of accusations contained in eyewitness accounts and documents that have just surfaced," writes Spiegel International about the Bundeswehr's elite Kommando Spezialkraefte (KSK) in Afghanistan:
One colonel in Kandahar is said to have been so fond of alcohol that American officers were forced to complain about his presence at mission briefings, during which he was clearly intoxicated. (...) Ed H., a US soldier stationed in Kandahar from December 2001 onward (...): "Basically, the Germans were not allowed to do anything," he recalls. "They looked around for things to do. They were incredibly bored." (...) But then the Germans' reputation abruptly changed. A rumor spread among US troops that at least one thing was worthwhile in the German unit -- its supply of alcohol. "Beer was like a currency," says one US soldier, who stocked up on the beverages provided by the KSK troops. "To us, the German beer supplies were Big Rock Candy." And the German and US troops also bonded over their beers. The KSK troops were especially interested in socializing with US reconnaissance troops. By drinking with them, they obtained access to confidential situation reports, and even satellite photographs and intelligence reports. Sometimes they were able to make phone calls using US satellite facilities. Even helicopter flights and other transportation services were traded for beer. One source says the KSK used the alcohol trade to "creatively compensate for the material deficits of the German forces."
Why isn't it legal to share beer and intel between NATO allies? ;-)
Spiegel writes about the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) analyst:
Since he's taken part in previous German-negotiated prisoner exchanges, he knows the bizarre rules of hostage-trading as well as the main people involved. The German government has twice been a successful mediator between Hezbollah and Israel, and the work is as delicate and demanding as it is prestigious. The difference this time is that the new talks, technically, shouldn't be happening. Last year BND chief Ernst Uhrlau threatened Hezbollah that the German wouldn't be available if the militia tried to use kidnappings again as a negotiating tactic. (...) The German government was then appropriately reserved when a spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry, Yigal Palmor, openly asked for negotiating help. "Right now the same officials from Germany would be useful again," he said.
Now the BND agent is negotiating on behalf of United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and Spiegel concludes:
Even if the current negotiations fail, though, the mission will already count as a success for the German government. Any failure in talks will lie at the UN's feet, but a success will bring at least some credit back to Germany.
Ahead of President Bush's visit to Germany next week, The Economist is concerned that "America may expect too much help from Germany, whether on Iran, the Balkans or Russia." The respected British weekly acknowledges that Chancellor Merkel improved German-American relations, while "showing that she is no poodle, criticising Guantánamo and pushing the Americans to talk directly to Iran" and notices:
Most Germans are happy that the low point in German-American relations, when Chancellor Gerhard Schröder noisily opposed the Iraq war in 2002-03, is behind them. But they remain unpersuaded by Mr Bush's charm offensive. Some fear that Germany may again come to seem too close to America. A few fret that the Americans could lure Germany into a "coalition of the willing" against Iran.
The Economist points out that bilateral relations were not as bad as the Bush-Schroeder relationship suggests, because the CIA was helped by two German spies in Baghdad during the early days of the Iraq war. The weekly calls Tony Blair a "lame-duck" and opines that:
Germany could take on Britain's role as America's favourite partner in Europe. The rapprochement partly reflects Mr Bush's pressing need for allies in Europe. To get the Germans on board, Mr Bush has even showed some comprehension, albeit awkwardly expressed, for their opposition to the war. "I've come to realise that the nature of the German people are such that war is very abhorrent (sic)", he said in an interview with a German tabloid.
Slowly but surely Germans are shifting from idealism to realism, particularly over Iran. They are convinced that something must be done about the country's nuclear programme. The recent Pew poll of global attitudes found no country with a higher share of the population opposed to Iran acquiring nuclear weapons than Germany. "Germans know how dangerous a madman at the helm can be," comments Gert Weisskirchen, a foreign-policy guru for the Social Democrats. No party other than the Left Party would oppose "smart" sanctions if Iran rejected the western package of incentives for it to remain non-nuclear.
The German weekly Die Zeit looks at the state of U.S.-German relations as well.
The New York Times writes that a classified US military study credits the German Federal Intelligence Agency for obtaining a copy of Saddam Hussein's plan to defend Bagdad and for passing this plan on to the US:
The plan gave the American military an extraordinary window into Iraq's top-level deliberations, including where and how Mr. Hussein planned to deploy his most loyal troops.
A German government spokesperson rejected the NYT report as wrong "in all its details," but Bill Keller, the NY Times's executive editor, said in response that the report published today was attributed to a classified Joint Forces Command study on the development of Iraq's military strategy, dated 2005, and that on the matter of German involvement, 'the Joint Forces Command study is explicit and unqualified. The United States awarded a medal to one of the two agents of the German Federal Intelligence for his support to combat operations The NYT also describes the German governments vocal public opposition to the Iraq war and the significant help the German armed forces provided nevertheless:
German ships guarded the sea lanes near the Horn of Africa as part of Task Force 150, an effort to deter terrorist attacks in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, for example. The patrols helped safeguard the waterways the United States used to build up its forces in the Persian Gulf for the invasion of Iraq. German troops were also part of a "consequence management" team, at the United States military base at Camp Doha, Kuwait, which was charged with protecting Kuwaitis after a chemical attack. The measure was justified as defensive. German personnel also guarded American military bases in Germany, freeing United States soldiers to go to Iraq. When NATO debated whether to send Awacs radar planes and Patriot missile batteries to Turkey, a move the United States was promoting to help persuade Ankara to open a northern front in Iraq, Germany initially was opposed. But it soon dropped its objections. Germany later provided the missiles for the Patriot batteries sent to Turkey.
The German government acknowledged that two German intelligence agents based in Bagdad provided the United States with a few military coordinates during the 2003 invasion, but rejected allegations that they aided the U.S. bombing campaign. However, one of the agents received an US military award. The German government's declassified report to a parliamentary oversight committee quotes the US laudation for the German agent (page 35):
The United States of America [...] has awarded The Meritorious Service Medal to [...] German Army, for exceptionally meritorious achievement as Senior Analyst from 1 February 2003 to 30 April 2003. His critical information to United States Central Command to support combat operations in Iraq reflects great credit upon himself and the German Federal Armed Services, and the friendship between Germany and the United States of America.
The German government describes the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) agent's contribution as less significant than the laudation suggests and argues that the medal was awarded as a gesture in support of the German-American relationship, which would have been remarkable because at that time Germany was quite unpopular in the US due to its anti-Iraq war policy. The Schroeder government's strong criticism of the US led Iraq war and the former chancellor's pre-election pledge not to involve Germany in the Iraq war is the main reason why this affair has become such a sensitive subject in Germany.
In January the government said that the intelligence agency gave only the coordinates of non-targets (hospitals, mosques, synagogues, and embassies) to the US, but now the government report admits that the agency informed the US of seven military targets as well. Two of the three opposition parties called for an in-depth parliamentary inquiry (Untersuchungsausschuss) into the Federal Intelligence Service's involvement during the Iraq war, their role in interrogations of terror suspects abroad as well as the alleged CIA renditions, in particular the case of the German citizen El-Masri. Because both the Green Party and the Left Party only have small number of parliamentary seats, it depends on the third opposition party (the Liberal Democrats) whether there will be parliamentary inquiry.
Endnote: The NY Times reports that the German government has criticized the United States for the abduction of El-Masri for more than a year, but now "the police and prosecutors opened an investigation into whether Germany served as a silent partner of the United States."
Hours after the 9/11 attacks, Donald Rumsfeld asked his aides to look for evidence of Iraqi involvement, according to notes taken by Stephen Cambone, now undersecretary of defence for intelligence. The notes have just been declassified under the US Freedom of Information Act in response to a request by law student and blogger Thad Anderson and published in the Guardian and elsewhere. (Time Magazine's Andrew Sullivan gives his post the title of Prof. Glenn Instapundit Reynold's new book An Army of Davids about ordinary people beating mass media, government and other Goliaths.) Bob Woodward apparently had access to the classified documents and quoted from Chambone's notes in his book Plan of Attack: "hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] @ same time—not only UBL [Usama Bin Laden]." According to Woodward, Colin Powell then said "What the hell! What are these guys thinking about? Can't you get these guys back in the box?" Paul. R. Pillar, the National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005, describes in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs how from his standpoint the "Bush administration disregarded the community's expertise, politicized the intelligence process, and selected unrepresentative raw intelligence to make its public case":
The administration used intelligence not to inform decision-making, but to justify a decision already made. It went to war without requesting -- and evidently without being influenced by -- any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq. (...) If the entire body of official intelligence analysis on Iraq had a policy implication, it was to avoid war -- or, if war was going to be launched, to prepare for a messy aftermath.
The essay of this former high-level official does not include any new revelations and accusations, but is a good summary of familiar criticism of the use of intelligence to justify the Iraq war. Concerning the prospects of a democratic Iraq, he writes:
Before the war, on its own initiative, the intelligence community considered the principal challenges that any postinvasion authority in Iraq would be likely to face. It presented a picture of a political culture that would not provide fertile ground for democracy and foretold a long, difficult, and turbulent transition. (...) The intelligence community argued that any value Iraq might have as a democratic exemplar would be minimal and would depend on the stability of a new Iraqi government and the extent to which democracy in Iraq was seen as developing from within rather than being imposed by an outside power. More likely, war and occupation would boost political Islamand increase sympathy for terrorists' objectives -- and Iraq would become a magnet for extremists from elsewhere in the Middle East.