Geman Chancellor Angela Merkel and senior members of her government flatly rejected a request by US secretary of Defense Robert Gates to send Bundeswehr combat troops to Taliban hotspots in Afghanistan. A Merkel spokesperson said the exting Afghanistan mandate is not open for discussion. On Friday morning, German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung rejected a call by Gates to send German troops to southern afghanistan where a Taliban-led insurgency has destabilized the area. The negative harping and critical tone of the Gates letter infuriated German leaders and made them even more certain to continue their present polciy of what Jung noted, “We need to keep our point of focus in northern Afghanistan.”
A Merkel spokesperson, Ulrich Wilhelm, made clear there were currently “no thoughts” about changing policy, a step that would require approval of the Bundestag. Wilhelm emphasized Gemany’s position has repeatedly been made clear to the United States and would not be subject to change.
The over-riding problem in Afghanistan is failure on the part of those fighting in that nation to agree on a long-term strategy. Militay action alone has failed to succeed in driving out the Taliban. There is need for vast economic and social changes if the Taliban are to be confronted in a successful manner. Part of the problem is that large sectors of Afghan society remain tribal and under the control of religious clerics whose views are closer to those of the Taliban than to Western allies. President Bush entered Afghanistan with vague desires to kill Osama bin Laden, but, as ususal, had no plan once the initial victory had been achieved. Until Secretary Robert Gates confronts that issue, asking for more troops is a dead end solution to failure.