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"German Soldiers Can't Shoot"

The Daily Beast published the article German Soldiers Can't Shoot by German journalist Stefan Theil about "Leaked reports question the competence of the German army, which has thousands of troops serving in Afghanistan":

"German soldiers mostly don't know how to use their weapons." They "have no or little experience driving armored vehicles." For German field commanders, "the necessity and ways [to protect their units from roadside bombs] are to a large extent either unknown or incorrect." These are quotes from a series of secret internal reports on the German army, the Bundeswehr, whose 5,000 soldiers in the northern Kunduz sector of Afghanistan were supposed to help the U.S. rout the Taliban and stabilize the country over the past 10 years.

The reports are from 2009 and 2010 and were leaked to the Bild, a German tabloid that is Europe's highest-circulation newspaper. [Bundeswehrbericht enthüllt: Afghanistan-Soldaten können nicht richtig schießen] But they are an indication of the poor state of the Bundeswehr, which only two years ago even started fighting in Afghanistan. Before that, they weren't allowed to shoot except in self-defense, and only after they had shouted repeated warnings in the local language.

Only two years ago? Hm, I thought the policy change was earlier, but I must have been mistaken.

We constantly hear about the Bundeswehr's huge transformations since unification in 1990, but I am beginning to wonder how much of that was rhetoric. I am not underestimating how much the world has changed since the Cold War and how difficult it to transform military institutions and doctrine, but the fall of the Berlin Wall was more than 20 years ago. Two decades is a long time for Christ's sake. Soon we will mark the ten's anniversary of 9/11. I am getting tired of German pundit's talking about the post-Cold War world or even the post-9/11 world.

Theil is concerned that budget cuts will slowdown the recent progress:

Yet as the Bundeswehr brass inch forward to a more useful and active role for their army, politicians in Berlin are putting the brakes back on. Defense Minister Thomas De Maizière has announced budget cuts that will lower military expenditures to only 1 percent of German GDP in 2015, from 1.3 percent now.

Yes, but it is also policy issue. 1 percent of GDP is still a lot of money. We have to change faster, more creative, pool resources with allies to develop military capabilities more efficiently.

There was not enough pressure to reform the Bundeswehr in the past. One of the reasons for the lack of urgency was (and still is) the popular perception that a) finally we don't have enemies, but are surrounded by friends, b) we cannot increase our security with military means at the moment, and c) US led wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya are not enhancing Germany's security, thus we do not need to contribute much. Very shortsighted indeed.

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