Gates’ Words ‘Discredit’ NATO’s Afghan Mission
Can the United States expect its NATO allies to step up and station more combat troops in Afghanistan’s more dangerous regions? Given the commentary in much of the European press with perhaps the exception of the French, that seems like an unlikely prospect. Burkhard von Pappenheim writes for Germany’s Frankfurter Rundschau, ‘U.S. Defense Secretary Gates’ terse words discredit the ISAF mission in Afghanistan, since he speaks much about war and very little about peace. As a result, permanently stationing German soldiers in the south would jeopardize their success in the north.’
By Burkhard von Pappenheim
Translated By Ulf Behncke
February 10, 2008
Germany – Frankfurter Rundschau – Original Article (German)
The denial by the Defense Minister is so feeble that it should count as a confirmation. The Federal Government would like to dispatch to Afghanistan more troops than the 3,500 soldiers already approved by Parliament. The mandate is exhausted. Therefore, when the mission is extended into next fall, the Great Coalition [the U.S. and its NATO allies] must debate an expansion at the same time. [After all], a military operation cannot be meaningfully led if commanders have to forever count their soldiers. The German Bundeswehr (Federal Defense Forces) needs a bit of room to maneuver in Afghanistan.
However: Anyone who sends more troops into the Hindu Kush must also consider how and when they will be withdrawn. This will decide whether this nation is debating a politically intelligent and helpful deployment, or a military adventure.
In their area, the Germans have been relatively successful. One reason is that militarily, they have it easier than their allies in the hard-fought south. But that’s not the whole story. Their approach – to help the country by working to stabilize it – is the right one. If the country needs to be better-secured, then the Bundeswehr must obtain additional authorization – because the hope has been growing that in the foreseeable future, the troops will be able to leave altogether.