Berlin begs Ottawa to stay past 2009
With its public increasingly unnerved about terrorism and war, Germany implores 
Canada to stay the course for the greater good 

BERLIN - Stung by a thwarted terrorist attack and facing their own ugly 
parliamentary debate over the war, German leaders are begging Canada to avoid 
withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in early 2009 as scheduled.

"I want to say how much we appreciate what Canada is doing. We know that, for 
instance, about 100,000 Canadian soldiers lie in the European soil, [soldiers] 
that fought in two world wars begun by Germany. And it was never a question for 
Canada to defend our common values where it was needed," Eckart von Klaeden, 
Chancellor Angela Merkel's foreign-policy spokesman, said in an interview 

"Canada is a really important country as a role model for others. It would have 
consequences for the whole alliance and for the whole Western world if Canada 
would leave Afghanistan."

In both Canada and Germany, the Afghan mission faces intense pressure from the 
public and from opposition parties supporting shaky governments. Germany, like 
Canada, is in the midst of a debate over the nature of its commitment. But both 
parties in the German coalition government, the left-wing Social Democrats and 
the conservative Christian Democrats, have declared that troops should stay for 
at least 10 years, and the Social Democrats are arguing that the number of 
troops should be increased.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said recently that Canada's 2,500 troops would 
not stay beyond the current February, 2009, deadline unless there is a 
parliamentary mandate, which would probably be impossible in the current 
minority government.

NATO leaders, meeting in Ottawa yesterday and facing withdrawals from the 
37-nation Afghanistan mission by Canada, the Netherlands and several other 
nations, urged Canada to "stay the course."

In the war-plagued south, the loss of Canada and the Netherlands would leave 
only Britain and the United States, and NATO would be forced to press other 
nations, which have so far refused to enter this more intense battle, to send 
their troops into the line of fire.

This has created an air of crisis in Germany, whose 3,500 troops are mostly 
engaged in non-combat work securing the relatively peaceful north of 

Christian Schmidt, the German secretary of state for defence, said in an 
interview that Germany would not consider sending its troops south, beyond 100 
special-forces soldiers and a fleet of Tornado aircraft that are supporting the 
U.S. Operation Enduring Freedom mission there, and suggested that Canada is 
damaging the solidarity of the NATO mission.

"The ideal should be, you go in together, you go out together, mission 
accomplished and we're leaving. ... I think it would be the best to go out 
together, but I appreciate very much and I estimate very highly the commitment 
of Canada as it is today."

Germany on Wednesday arrested three men and is seeking about a dozen other 
suspects after breaking up an alleged Islamist terrorist plot that sought to 
explode huge bombs outside U.S.-linked military installations near Frankfurt. 
Such strikes could become prevalent if the NATO coalition was seen to be weak 
and divided, German officials said.

"I think we are only successful if we stand together, and if the terrorists 
would identify Germany as the weakest link in NATO's chain, I think this would 
increase the probability of such attacks. So standing together is really very, 
very important," Mr. von Klaeden said.

The German parliament will vote during the next three months on a series of 
bills that would extend the country's military commitment in Afghanistan, which 
expires before the end of this year. While both the conservative and left-wing 
parties in the coalition government are likely to support an extension of the 
NATO mission in northern Afghanistan, they are deeply divided over the 
country's other commitments and the details of the arrangement.

The debate in Berlin is strikingly similar to the one unfolding in Ottawa. The 
German public is generally opposed to the mission, with 65 per cent of voters 
supporting an immediate withdrawal.

And the left-leaning Social Democrats may be poised to vote against Germany's 
contribution to the U.S. Operation Enduring Freedom mission, which is largely 
indistinguishable from the NATO operation but is more active in the south. They 
will hold a party convention later this month to decide their position. The 
party has been losing voters to the Left Party, made of former East German 
Communists and far-left former Social Democrats, because it is the only party 
backing a complete withdrawal.

Rainer Arnold, the Social Democrat defence spokesman, said in an interview 
yesterday that his party would back a troop increase if the generals wanted it, 
and that they are largely supporting the German non-combat role in the north, 
but that it may need to be examined.

"I think our main responsibility is to find a better understanding of why it is 
that Germany has decided to maintain its strong position in the north," he 
said. "It's the same question I was confronted with recently in Kabul from the 
Canadian generals, asking why we can't send a strong army to the south."

Mr. Arnold said that Germany would likely be considering an immediate 
withdrawal if it were facing the number of deaths that Canada has been 
enduring. Since the war's outset in 2001, 21 German soldiers and three 
policemen have died, compared with 70 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat.

"It's a very difficult position the Canadians are in, especially given the 
smallness of their army and the very difficult situation in the south and the 
high number of victims," Mr. Arnold said. "If we had these kind of figures in 
Germany, I don't know if the German population and politicians would support 
the mandate."

The military's role

The role of the German military has been severely restricted since the adoption 
of a new constitution in 1949 after its Second World War defeat.

Under Germany's constitution, known as its Basic Law, the military's role is 
strictly defensive. Constitutional court rulings in the 1990s, however, 
expanded the definition of "defensive" beyond protecting Germany's borders to 
include guarding the security of Germany anywhere in the world. Before that 
change, the German military mostly helped out in times of natural disaster.

Around the same time that the military role was changed, the courts also made 
it clear that a specific resolution of parliament, which describes the details 
of the mission and limits its term, is required to send German troops outside 
the territory of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.


What was said

Terror arrests in Germany sparked a range of opinions in the newspapers.

Frankfurter Allgemeine

New York. Madrid. London. Then Frankfurt? Hanau? Heidelberg? German cities were 
supposed to become part of the barrage of attacks by Islamic terrorists that 
would shake the West to its foundations. ... Experience shows that one cannot 
give them any quarter, not in Afghanistan, not in German mosques and backrooms, 
and not in the depths of the Internet. The next attack is possibly already 
being planned. 

Green Party Chair Claudia Roth, in an interview with Sueddeutsche Zeitung

Along with many other experts, I see a need for a radical change of strategy 
[in Afghanistan]. This doesn't mean that we should just deploy more troops, as 
Foreign Minister [Frank-Walter] Steinmeier demands, but that we finally push 
forward with all our strength on civilian reconstruction. At the same time, 
along with ISAF [International Security Force to Afghanistan], a military 
component remains necessary to secure reconstruction efforts.

Die Zeit

In year five of the reconstruction efforts on the Hindu Kush, the German army 
has learned a painful lesson: It is wrong to think that you won't make enemies 
in Afghanistan as long as you do only good. Whoever changes or modernizes 
things here, is practising politics, be it in the building of schools or of 

Reader of Die Welt responds to question, Are our current laws enough to fight 
against terror?

[Interior Minister] Wolfgang Schaeuble wants to turn our country into a 
surveillance state. Besides, we ourselves are responsible for possible 
terrorist attacks because we participate in useless oil wars with the U.S.A. in 
the name of freedom, which for me are crimes.

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