Army general calls German Afghan campaign ‘failure’

1st December 2008, Comments 0 comments

The outspoken criticism by Hans-Christoph Ammon, who heads the army's commando section, is almost unprecedented in modern Germany.

Berlin -- A German army general called Berlin's efforts to help Afghanistan a "failure" Friday and demanded that Berlin roll out development aid Afghans could see.

The outspoken criticism by Hans-Christoph Ammon, who heads the army's commando section, was almost unprecedented in modern Germany and follows months of growing discontent among soldiers at Berlin policy.

Ammon said that compared to the United States, Germany was spending "far too little" in Afghanistan. He also called on the West to open peace talks with moderate Taliban leaders.

He confirmed his remarks to DPA in Stuttgart, after a speech he gave Wednesday was reported in an area newspaper, the Schwaebische Zeitung.

Germany's efforts to establish a proper police force in Afghanistan "have been a failure," said Ammon, whose secrecy-shrouded KSK special forces troops were originally sent to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Serving KSK commanders rarely speak in public, let alone bluntly criticize the government.

In Berlin, a Defense Ministry spokesman said Ammon was merely expressing a personal opinion.

Brigadier-General Ammon said that where Washington had devoted 1 billion dollars to developing the army and police, Germany had spent just 12 million euros (15 million dollars).

"It would have taken us another 82 years to obtain a reasonable police force," he told DPA. He said Berlin did too little public outreach to explain to Germans the purpose of the military deployment to Afghanistan.

"We have to do more, or else public support for our soldiers will be lost," he said.

Ammon spoke a day after German President Horst Koehler implicitly criticized the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel for not seeking wider public backing for the armed forces in Afghanistan.

The Bundeswehrverband, which functions as a trade union for officers and volunteer servicemen, has also increased its criticism of government policy in Afghanistan.

Most of the German troops deployed with the International Stability and Assistance Force (ISAF) have been told by Berlin to remain in the relatively peaceful north, far from the battles with the Taliban.

German involvement in the southern war has been limited to air force reconnaissance.

The newspaper quoted Ammon saying the European Union and the United States were to take over police training after German efforts had been "a disgraceful failure."

"It's a disaster," he was quoted saying, adding that 800 million dollars in international aid to Afghanistan was not being distributed because aid organizations could not cope.

"Through an uncoordinated approach, we are wasting billions," he said, adding that the delay in Afghanistan's reconstruction "damages the credibility of German soldiers" and risked their being perceived as occupiers.

He said "rapid and visible" improvements to Afghanistan's facilities to show Afghans the West could be counted on.

He said the Taliban should be invited to the negotiating table, "not the Stone Age Islamists, but the moderate supporters." He also suggested opium growing be legalized for a transitional period so that peasants were not driven into the arms of the Taliban and drug barons.


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