Germany’s Political Muddle Complicates Afghanistan Mission

Germany’s Political Muddle Complicates Afghanistan Mission

The German parliament recently renewed the "mandates" authorizing the German Bundeswehr to continue military operations in Afghanistan. On Oct. 12, the legislators voted to approve Germany's continued military participation in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF). On Nov. 15, the Bundestag extended by one-year the authorization permitting Germany's elite special forces unit, the Kommando Spezialkräfte, to participate in the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan, which also involves German naval patrols off the Horn of Africa.

The OEF deployment, which focuses on counterterrorism, has proven more controversial among Germans than supporting the ISAF, which is often depicted as a humanitarian and civil reconstruction mission. Nevertheless, neither operation is especially popular given that over two dozen Bundeswehr personnel have died in Afghanistan and others have been held hostage there. According to a recent newspaper poll, only 29 percent of Germans favor continuing the ISAF deployment.

The German votes, which support a continuation of current German commitments but not their expansion, will only partially reassure U.S. policy makers. Washington officials have repeatedly complained that America's NATO allies were failing to provide the troops and equipment needed to enable the multinational mission in Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban insurgency. On Sept. 27, for instance, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told a press conference, "We have been very direct with a number of the NATO allies about the need to meet the commitments that they made at Riga."

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