Close observers of the NATO effort in Afghanistan (including EuroSavant) have always been aware that there is something strange about the deployment of German troops there, which now has passed the eight-year mark. For starters there is their exclusive placement in the north of the country, when all the meaningful anti-Taliban action is in the south (or at least used to be!), this deployment also features fairly absurd rules-of-engagement designed to restrict the German Army (or Bundeswehr) there to defensive duties only. Now you can add into this mix a strong and growing skepticism among the public back home whether the Bundeswehr should be there in the first place, if we can credit an article by Hauke Friederichs in the prestigious German opinion newspaper Die Zeit, entitled Germany’s self-delusion in the Hindu Kush.
That caustic title is actually the very same as that of a new book out by Stefan Kornelius, head of the foreign affairs department at Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung. The expanded list he provides of “defense-only” rules under which the German troops have to work is truly ridiculous. They may fire at targets only after they have first been attacked, and even then may not pursue those enemy forces if they should then try to flee; no night flights are allowed by either fixed-winged or helicopters – and, in any case, anything German pilots may learn up there in the way of intelligence on the enemy cannot be radioed back directly (i.e. in “real-time”), but must be debriefed only after that aircraft is back on the ground. For the rule that takes the cake I almost chose the one reading “No counter-narcotics activity; you’re not here for that,” which among other things supposedly has resulted in opium poppies for harvesting being grown right next to a German base! But no, that has to yield pride-of-place to Friederichs’ mention that German government lawyers are still filing legal complaints against soldiers who fire their weapons in self-defense when it’s not clear that the Taliban have indeed fired first! (more…)