Sunday, August 16, 2009

Achtung: German army on offensive

It is rather disconcerting that the German army has turned a corner and now openly engages in offensive operations. It is disconcerting, at least to me, not because the Germans are particularly special in their Krieggeist but because in the post-war era, Germans are arguably the most "morally serious" nation, to quote Norman Finkelstein.

Der Spiegel - July 23, 2009
Afghanistan Offensive 'Dispels German Illusions'

In a step that marks a major psychological milestone in postwar Germany, Bundeswehr soldiers are now on the offensive in Afghanistan. Some German commentators are angry; others saw it coming. But they all agree that Germany can not preserve its "special status" within NATO forever.

The days of German troops only conducting defensive operations are quickly becoming a thing of the past. In a press conference in Berlin on Wednesday, German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung announced that 300 German soldiers were backing 1,200 Afghan army troops in a major offensive against the Taliban in northern Afghanistan...

At the beginning of July, US marines launched a surprise offensive in southern Afghanistan. And, as of Sunday, the Germans -- alongside the Afghan soldiers they trained -- are on the offensive in the north.

In Wednesday's press conference, Wolfgang Schneiderhan, Germany's highest-ranking officer, stressed the precedent-setting importance of the actions, describing it as "probably the biggest" deployment by German forces in Afghanistan. And he underlined how the soldiers are now using heavy weapons, such as mortars and Marder armored infantry vehicles, in a fight that involves "house-by-house searches and looking for the enemy." SPIEGEL ONLINE has also reported that German fighter jets are firing missiles at suspected insurgents for the first time.

For Germans, having their military on the offensive for the first time since World War II involves passing over a major psychological threshold. And it takes place in the context of a war that has grown more unpopular over the years, after having initially received widespread support...

[Der Spiegel goes on to review the German press' reaction to the development:]

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

... "An exit strategy is required -- including for the Bundeswehr. A few years back, Germans might not have opposed the deployment, but a majority of them do today. This stance has nothing to do with things having not being sufficiently explained to them. On the contrary, some of the attempts at explaining things have made them very angry. So-called experts say that the Bundeswehr forces in northern Afghanistan need to show their NATO allies that they're willing to fight. What a load of nonsense: waging war just to show that you can."

The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

"In the beginning, the German government in power at the time was very adamant about having a strict separation between ISAF's support and security tasks…. In particular, it opposed having a combined command structure for them, though Germany finally agreed with NATO -- for practical reasons -- to let this happen."

"At the time, it was already clear that Germany's ISAF contingent would sooner or later be drawn into the fighting. Since then, you couldn't help but notice that developments were also going to make offensive military actions unavoidable. But with these actions, Germans have to give up the legal fiction of 'self-defense' (used to justify Germany's deployment in Afghanistan), which only puts the soldiers in a more dangerous legal standing and increases the risks they face."

"The operation will eventually turn into a full-on military conflict as part of a larger civil war that goes beyond international boundaries and involves foreign participants -- as has happened in all previous wars of this type..." ... (link)
See a nearby post for the underwhelming results of the German forces' assault.

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