US secretary of Defense Robert Gates has sent a letter to his German counterpart demanding more German engagement in Afghanistan. In the past Germany’s response has been -nein. There is considerable opposition within Germany to dispatch more German soldiers to the Afghan fighting front. The Gates missive was eight pages in length and spelled out in detail the role expected by the United States of its German ally. Gates indicated 3,000 Marines would be arriving in Afghanistan, but they are only expected to remain for several months, and Gates insists when they leave German and other NATO allies should assume responsibility for completing the work done by the Marines.
Canada has already made clear it will withdraw troops unless NATO forces increase their presence in Afghanistan. The German government has imposed restrictive conditions on NATO commanders when using their troops. German troops are “barredf from the use of deadly foce unless an attack is underway or is imminent.” In other words, they are only allowed to fire in cases of self defense. These conditions run counter to what Gates is demanding from Germany. The Bundeswehr’s Web site states that fighting the Taliban is the “responsibility of the (US-led) Operation Enduring Freedom” and is thus “strictly separated” from NATO’s function.
A continuing problem is that NATO entered the Afghanistan fight without clear agreement as to their function. A second problem has been the disjointed American operation which became sidetracked by the war in Iraq.