From Judy Dempsey, the International Herald Tribune:  Chancellor Angela Merkel moved quickly on Wednesday to appoint a new defense minister a day after Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg resigned because of a plagiarism scandal involving his doctoral dissertation.

Thomas de Maizière, 57, who has been interior minister since 2009, takes over the Defense Ministry at a time when Germany’s armed forces are undergoing their most radical reforms in many years. With conscription ending in June, the army cutting its troop level to under 190,000 from over 250,000 and with German troops beginning their withdrawal from Afghanistan this year, Mr. de Maizière faces major challenges in carrying out the reforms begun by Mr. Guttenberg a few months ago.

“Now comes the hard part,” said Christian Mölling, a defense expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin. “While the Defense Ministry will be in good hands with Mr. de Maizière, he will have to ask difficult questions about the future needs of Germany’s armed forces in terms of structure, equipment and training.”  (photo: the Local)