Are German Soldiers Secretly Helping Fight Gadhafi?
From Matthias Gebauer, Spiegel: German soldiers are more directly involved in NATO air attacks against military forces of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi than was previously known. In response to a specific inquiry recently submitted by Hans-Christian Ströbele, a Green Party member of parliament, Germany's government acknowledged that 11 German soldiers currently stationed at NATO facilities in Italy are performing duties including ones "in the area of so-called target selection" for NATO airstrikes. However, the Defense Ministry documents obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE also note that the German soldiers do not hold any "leadership or decision-making positions. . . ."
It has already been known for weeks that, as part of Germany's obligations as a member of the NATO alliance, its soldiers have been assigned to work as parts of military staffs actively involved in the Libya mission. Nevertheless, Ströbele believes it is scandalous that German soldiers are also participating in selecting targets for upcoming attacks. "With these activities," he says, "we are secretly taking part in the Libyan war. . . ."
As the ministry sees it, saying no to NATO would be impossible and possibly even a violation of its obligations under the NATO treaty. Likewise, the ministry stresses that the Germans serving on the military staffs in Italy have in no way been directly involved in selecting concrete targets for bombing attacks. Instead, the German soldiers have been much more involved in assessing the overall military situation by analyzing images taken from airborne surveillance sources for their strategic value. Several government officials and military officers affirm that final target selection is being handled by nations actively participating in the war, including the United States, France and Great Britain. The fact that such tasks are so crucial lends credence to their statements. . . .
Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière has responded harshly to Ströbele's criticisms. "Mr. Ströbele's views are legally incorrect," de Maizière told reporters Thursday evening. He added that the "unambiguous" legal position did not oblige the government to obtain a parliamentary mandate to have German soldiers participate on NATO staffs. The minister also believes there is no doubt what would happen if Germany decided to ignore its treaty obligations. "We would be forced to leave NATO," he said. (photo: DPA)