Obama plans to shift 45,000 troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, enlisting more help from the United States’ European allies, but he will delay this until after Germany’s general election later this month, Spiegel reports.
The Obama administration seems determined to expand the military effort and then to make an assessment as to whether or not progress can be made that way. NATO was informed by diplomatic sources that the United States wants to move a combat force of about 45,000 men from Iraq to Afghanistan – in part as replacements for troops rotated out and in part as reinforcements. The same sources indicated that the Europeans would be expected to help by providing additional forces, more reconstruction assistance, and increased funding. The Obama administration wants to wait until after the general election in Germany on Sept. 27 before officially announcing its wishes.
Postponing the announcement could help Chancellor Merkel at the ballot box in light of renewed domestic pressure to rethink Germany’s role in Afghanistan following last week’s Kunduz airstrike. The airstrike, ordered by a German officer, may have killed up to 70 civilians, human rights groups allege.
Domestic support for Germany’s military operations in Afghanistan has been tepid at best, with two-thirds of Germans supporting an outright withdrawal of Germany’s 4,200 troops. Despite Obama’s delay of the surge announcement, the damage may have already been done: the airstrike incident has heightened support for Germany’s anti-war parties (the Left party and the Social Democrats) at the expense of Merkel’s own Christian Democrats, with her favored coalition falling below 49% of the vote in pre-election polling.
Stephen Smith is an intern with the New Atlanticist. He is senior at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, where he is studying to earn a BS in Political Economy.