Afghan elections: a test for Germans

20th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

Afghanistan's presidential elections are likely to test the ambitions of the country's leadership to transform their nation into a modern democracy. But Dorothea Huelsmeier argues that the poll will also represent a key test for Germany which has made a major commitment to underpinning change in the war-torn nation.

German soldiers make up the largest contingent in the international force

Afghanistan's first presidential elections on 9 October will be a test not only for interim President Hamid Karzai but also for the International Security Assistance Force and the 2,000 German soldiers who make up the largest contingent.
After committing himself unconditionally to assist George W Bush in the US war on terror, Afghanistan has emerged as a key part of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's attempts to  redefine Germany's foreign policy: taking on more responsibility on the global stage but at the same time demanding more influence.

In particular, this also includes Schroeder's renewed push for Germany to gain a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

As part of Berlin's new sense of global responsibility, Germany now has about 9,000 troops serving in operations around the world.
People in the defence ministry in Berlin have no illusions about the security situation in the war-ravaged Afghanistan and expect danger to increase in the run-up to the vote.

*quote1*The Germans are increasing their commitment in Afghanistan despite the attacks on relief agencies, government offices and voters coupled with threats by the radical, Islamic Taliban against Nato troops.

A Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) is operating in Kunduz at present, and a second will begin operations in Faisabad, about 12 to 15 hours drive away, in mid-August.

The situation in the north is "still quiet but not stable", says to a ministry spokesman in Berlin.

According to the United Nations, the proportionally strongest registration of voters has taken place in northern Afghanistan. Berlin considers that an indication of slightly greater stability than in other regions.

The defence ministry intends deploying an additional 60 German soldiers to assist the new 80 strong PRT during the election period in remote Faisabad. Nato wants to send 1,900 additional soldiers to Afghanistan during the election period.

For weeks, the German government has been trying to drum up international support for the Faisabad team. Nevertheless, the ministry is optimistic about reaching a result in the "near future".

Faisabad, in the northeast Badakshan province, is a centre of poppy cultivation for use in opium. But battling drugs is not one of the German army's tasks.

The German army's PRT in Faisabad will not have any civil role for the moment. Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul (SPD) has made clear that there are presently no funds available for additional helpers in Faisabad.

*quote2*A spokesman for Wieczorek-Zeul said more reconstruction teams in Afghanistan would be useful. However, other projects in Afghanistan would have to be disbanded in order to commit to Faisabad. "That would be discouraging and not a good signal," he said.

The Germans can expect more responsibility in Kabul. The Eurocorps, in which Germany participates, will take over command of the NATO-led ISAF troops next Wednesday for six months. That means 90 German troops will move into ISAF headquarters.

A spokesman for Eurocorps in Strasbourg, France, said: "The situation will become even more tense by election time."

A German commander, Brigadier General Walter Spindler, has been in Kabul since the end of July. The commander of the German-French brigade is the third German within ISAF to lead the Kabul Multinational Brigade (KMNB) which focuses on stabilising the Afghan capital.

August 2004

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Life in Germany, Afghanistan, German foreign affairs 

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