Skip to content

Germany Has to Kick Ass in Northern Afghanistan

Next week the German parliament will vote on the extension of the ISAF mandate. There seems to be a broad majority in favor of increasing the German contribution by 1000 troops to 4500 for the next 14 months.

However, contrary to frequent demands by NATO allies, Germany is not joining the fight against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. And the new mandate will not ease the restrictions on military operations either.

This makes the troop increase a waste of effort, says Ahmed Rashid, the acclaimed Pakistani journalist and bestselling author of "Taliban" and "Descent Into Chaos." Mr. Rashid calls upon Germany to be much more active militarily and politically. The Bundeswehr does not have to go to southern Afghanistan, but it must do much more in the North.

Ahmed Rashid gave a very thoughtful, passionate and captivating keynote speech at the Heinrich Boell Foundation's conference on "Values and Interests in Foreign Policy." Watch the video below:

Germany is not the only country that has to change course drastically and overcome its deep aversion to risk taking. The United States has to leave its comfort zone and enter new territory by talking to Iran about Afghanistan in order to win this regional conflict. This is what Ahmed Rashid told my colleague David Lebhar after the keynote speech. You can watch the interview over at Atlantic Community: "How the US and Germany Can Win in Afghanistan.


No Trackbacks


Display comments as Linear | Threaded

John in Michigan, USA on :

Cross-posted on Atlantic Community: Dialog for the sake of dialog is meaningless. It substitutes process for substance. Dialog might be useful, if there is something to talk about. But Mr. Rashid fails to address the critical question -- what do we (the West, NATO, Germany, US) have than the Iranians want? What do we have that they want, enough to give up either a nuclear bomb, or stop making trouble in Afghanistan, or both? Mr. Rashid does not answer this directly. Is he suggesting that merely making Iran a member in the various fora and institutions he mentions, is enough incentive for Iran? This is what he seems to be saying. If so, he leaves out several important points. First, US-Iranian dialog was going nowhere, until it became clear that the surge in Iraq was succeeding. We need similar progress in Afghanistan before engaging in dialog with the Iranians on that front. If Germany, the US, and indeed the rest of NATO could agree to implement a surge in Afghanistan (including vitally necessary reforms to the ISAF command structure and the end of most national caveats), in return for a US guarantee of future dialog with Iran on the topic of Iraq, that might make sense. But I think Mr. Rashid is proposing simultaneous initiatives, which seem to me more likely to fail or be misinterpreted by Iran as a sign of weakness. Dialog can be a sign of strength, but it is hard to see how under the current circumstances, absent a successful Afghanistan surge. Still, if simultaneous dialog is the price to be paid to get Germany out of the barracks and engaged in Afghan the way Mr. Rashid clearly understands is needed, it might be worth it. Second, when Iran and the US engaged somewhat on Iraq, Iran at the same time increased its misbehavior in other places, particularly Lebanon and Afghanistan. This shows that Iran still believes it gets equal, if not more, benefit from having the West as an enemy, than as a friend. It is negotiating re Iraq as a temporary tactic in support of a utopian (if not apocalyptic) "national greatness" strategy that is unaltered. Iran doesn't want to be invited to join the community of nations; it wants the community of nations to join Iran. So we are back to the original question: What do we have to give, that will make Iran value us more as friends than as enemies? I don't know the answer; it seems to me we have plenty to give, but none of it of interest to the Iranians until they make a strategic decision to alter their current strategy. Mr. Rashid seems to think dialog alone is enough. But what do we say, that we haven't already said many times before?

Fuchur on :

I think you raise indeed a very important question. The West and Russia have offered Iran just about everything they can - and Iran flat out refused. So, where can we go from there? And on the other hand - what reason has Iran ever given us to believe that they are at all interested in dialogue? The relations between the US and Iran are about as bad as it's possible without being downright at war. So, in that direction. there's not much to lose anyway.

Don S on :

"The relations between the US and Iran are about as bad as it's possible without being downright at war." Not really, although Iran is at that point with the UK. How could it be worse? Easy. Think back to the Clinton administration relationships with the Taliban, Saddam, and Sudan. Bush's messages to Iran have been verbal, not via cruise missiles.

Joe Noory on :

You left out what the US did for them - they got rid of the real risks to them, the ones not based in their own domestic propaganda - Saddam Hussein and the Taliban+AQ...

Joe Noory on :

No, Germany CAN kick ass in northern Afghanistan if it wanted to. The miracle of being German is that Germany never HAS to risk or do anything outside of her borders.

Joe Noory on :

Getting down to actual specifics, even if accept that the speaer's criticism is an action plan, fighting the Taliban is not wasted if it's a necessary part of his proposed course of action. I think this reason to want to believe that the German deployment would be a waste of effort is founded in the "wanting to believe" part.

Don S on :

Judging by past experience Germany is not going to do anything of the kind, while urging the US to talk with Iran. Talk is good, right? Talk right up to the pont of the first nuclear test......

Zyme on :

While I am not exactly a fan of the Iranian government, one has to admit that its nuclear ambitions do have advantages. I don't think these weapons would be directed against Europe and are intended to wipe out the infidels :) They are directed against Israel and would create a balance of power in the Orient again. This way Israel (and its bigger brother on a different continent) would then have to act more considerately in the region. Taking into account the traditionally good relations France and Germany have with the arabian world, I cannot see a bad thing here. So I am in favor of continuing the talks. The Americans did not prevent Pakistan's pursuit of nuclear ambitions as this served their interests - now we will not prevent the Iranian ambitions for the same reason. Surely there is the same number of potential lunatics in both of these countries.

Don S on :

Directed against? Or used against, Zyme? I'm not sure what to make of the idea of Iran having nuclear weapons to be honest, because Iran is one of the foremost sponsors of terrorists in the world. Of course, so was the USSR at one time, but the USSR never gave a terrorist even a sniff of a nuke. Iran may be the same - we don't know. Still, if push comes to shove I think we don't go to war to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. No, we very gravely (and privately) inform them that if by chance a major target in the west or Israel happened to go up in a mushroom cloud, Iran would be the #1 suspect - so don't do that if they value certain cities in Iran. In fact, work actively to help keep nukes from any source (like North Korea) out of the hands of Muslim terrorists - because no matter the actual source of the nuke, Iran would be suspect #1. Smething similar happened to Pakistan when it went nuclear. If a city in India went up Pakistan would be suspect #1, an best if one gets the hell out of Islamabad in that case....

Zyme on :

Exactly - they may have a strange agenda but would in no case be willing to use them. It would simply be a shift of power in the Orient - unwelcome to the US and Israel, while this does not have to apply for Europe.

Don S on :

Zyme, this is Not in my Backyard thinking. If Iran gets nukes it will affect Europe as well as Israel and the US - have no doubt about that. The question is whether the cure (a major war with Iran) is worse than the disease. And the answer to that is whether Iran does anything with the nukes or not. Such as heaving one at Tel Aviv or giving one to Hezbollah or Hamas. Or Al Qaeda for that mtter. It could go very very bad; mushroom clouds over Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Tehran, Qum, Mecca, and Cairo WOULD impact the hell out of Europe - and those are the stakes here, potentially. Best case - Iran could be like China getting the Bomb in the 60's. Worst case - we don't know for sure, except that if Israel gets hit there is no reason to suppose the response would end at Iran's borders.

Zyme on :

Why so negative? Keep in mind that there is a traditional partnership between our countries. This also has some rather bizarre reasons. The name Iran means "Land of the Aryans" - creating a special fondness its people seem to have towards Germany. Apart from that very mundane matters play a role, too. For example there is the point that Germany intends to diversify its energy sources - meaning less Russian and more Iranian gas in this case. It would be naive not to assume that this does not influence decision making in Berlin. As you can see there are a number of reasons that might prevent our side from taking a hard stance towards Iran.

Joe Noory on :

You're kidding me, right? Nations aren't drinking buddies. Nations aren't a notion that can be simplified and analogized with the behaviour of individual persons. When Iran has leverage over parts of Europe, the notion of friendship will be even more of a excercise in public pretention than it ever was before, and you can be sure that they understand how to do the slap and tickle far better than the BND. COncider the Iranian-Lebanese "amicability displays" or those with Hamas. It might not even be something that any of those parties want, but even they have to grin and appear to be chatting on the taselessly upholsered club chairs for the cameras.

Zyme on :

" It would be naive not to assume that this does not influence decision making in Berlin." Cut the first "not" out :)

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

There is an interesting debate with ten comments and counting on Atlantic Community: [url][/url]

David on :

The New York Times on [url=]the downward spiral[/url] in Afghanistan.

microgod on :

I'd really like to know more about those terrorists or Taliban NATO/OEF - forces have caught alive in Afghanistan. What has been there fate? Whom are they transferred to, the USA, lead nation of OEF? Is it possible that German elite KSK troops transfer prisoners to the USA although it is known they will probably be tortured then - or executed? I've mailed these question to my local Member of Parliament Ingbert Liebing (CDU) in order to get a statement from the German Ministre of Defense Jung: 1) Do German forces transfer prisoners to forces where they will likely be tortured or executed? 2) Do German forces do that even after the scandals of, for example, Abu Ghraib? The answer is still pending...

Joe Noory on :

What the Mayland National Guard troops did at Abu Ghreib prison was a crime. Thanks to the magical world of accumulated slander and propaganda, you can no longer differentiate it from either the rendition of captives to third-party nations or the hard core taken to Guantanamo bay, where only 150 are still kept, mainly because they are either extreme criminals, stateless, or their nations or citizenship don't want them. In Afghanistan, unless those they pick up are of international intelligence value, they are detained in Afghanistan until they are deemed harmless enough to release to their nation of citizenship, and even then generally if they will get reasonable legal treatment. The reason for that is simple - torture is normal in most of the arab and equatorial world in large numbers and minor offenses, or even for being from a community in the disfavor of authorities.

Marie Claude on :

Abu Ghraib was an epiphenomen in the whole war, like there are in ALL wars torture : waterboarding See what are tortures by AQ fellows and or Talebani ===================================================

Add Comment

E-Mail addresses will not be displayed and will only be used for E-Mail notifications.

To prevent automated Bots from commentspamming, please enter the string you see in the image below in the appropriate input box. Your comment will only be submitted if the strings match. Please ensure that your browser supports and accepts cookies, or your comment cannot be verified correctly.

Form options