Germany and Libya


From Charlemagne, the Economist:  So are we about to see the return of German troops to North Africa for the first time since the defeat of Erwin Rommel’s Afrikakorps in the second world war? Maybe.

The German government has taken a decision in principle to take part in a humanitarian mission as part of an EU force, should the UN ask for assistance to deliver aid. This is a remarkable turnaround from the country that, rather than vote with its European partners – France and Britain – chose instead to side with China and Russia in abstaining in the UN Security Council vote to authorise military action. Worse, it then withdrew its ships from a NATO mission to enforce the UN-mandated arms embargo on Libya.

That was all before the state elections in Baden-Württemberg, which Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition lost in any case. Now her spokesman declares that “if a request were made to the EU, Germany would live up to its responsibilities”.

Germany draws a distinction between the current NATO-led combat mission and the putative EU-led humanitarian mission (little matter that both would be justified under the same UN resolution authorising military action to protect civilians). …

The most pressing need in Libya is to help the besieged population of Misrata, where rebels have repulsed repeated attempts by loyalists of Muammar Qaddafi to take the town centre. The UN humanitarian chief, Valerie Amos, this week expressed alarm about the conditions in the city of about 300,000 people. “The situation on the ground is critical for a large number of people who immediately need food, clean water and emergency medical assistance," she said. …

This is where German troops may be called upon to intervene. The EU is supposed to have two battlegroups, contingents of about 1,500 troops ready to deploy at a few days’ notice. Germany contributes about 800 men to one of the battlegroups currently on the roster. A German military source yesterday said they could be ready to deploy within ten days. …

It would be a cruel irony if Germany, in its attempt to restore its battered credibility among its allies, were to expose its forces to greater danger on the ground in Misrata than if it had taken part in the air or maritime operations to begin with.  (photo: AP)  (via Global Europe)

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