De Maiziere defends Germany’s reluctance to deploy combat troops


From Nick Hopkins, Guardian:  He [Germany’s Minister of Defense Thomas de Maizière] has also been thinking about the lessons from Afghanistan, which should inform how the international community deals with conflicts in Syria, Mali and Somalia.

And he obviously wishes other nations, though he is reluctant to name them, would pay more attention to Germany‘s pragmatic solutions to problems. If they had, he says, the conflict in Afghanistan might have turned out differently.

"When we started the mission in Afghanistan, we started the discussion about the comprehensive approach. We were among the first to talk about [counter-insurgency]. Yes, we have to fight, yes we have to be strong, but at the same time we have to develop the country. You have to be sensitive about religious issues. You need good governance and to fight against corruption, and to help ordinary people and build schools.

"When we started this discussion, some years ago, we heard a lot of [remarks] … ‘typical German, they think our mission should rather be medical services’. We learned that clear is nothing without hold. And clear and hold is nothing without build. And all of a sudden this comprehensive approach was the result of the 2010 Lisbon summit. So these were very important lessons from Afghanistan."

De Maizière admitted Germany had been tentative about military operations since the country was unified. He defended Berlin’s reluctance to put combat troops on the ground over the last 20 years, and its refusal to join the military effort to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi. Germany, he said, would deploy fighters only when it thought it was necessary, and not to join a bandwagon.

"In Afghanistan, German soldiers had to fight for the first time because of necessity. Some of our partners thought we were ‘cake-eaters’, and not up to the task. They didn’t say it publicly, but they were sceptical. But the German armed forces proved to be able to fight. Germany had to learn that fighting is important. Other countries had to learn that fighting is not enough." De Maizière quoted the 18th-century philosopher Carl von Clausewitz, who said: "War is the continuation of politics by other means."

"You need political strategies before, during and after any military activity. You could have the bravest soldiers, but conflicts cannot be only solved by the military."  (photo: AFP/Getty)

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