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Germany’s limitations on military bump into war-face Afghan reality

Dealing with growing insurgency in the formerly relatively peaceful northern Afghanistan, Germany’s military is facing its first real ground combat in 55 years. German soldiers near Kunduz have had to respond to a campaign by Taliban insurgents, but are undertaking this military activity with Germany’s post-World War II taboo against foreign military engagement running in the background. The question is how long German political/social opposition will permit this commitment to continue - and if its military will get the flexibility for counterinsurgency efforts advocated by American generals. After World War II, Germans refused to use the military for more than self-defence. Pacifism is a powerful social force opposing the use of its military for anything beyond humanitarian assistance. While the country’s political leadership has eroded this in its use of air power in Kosovo, a legacy of a ban on direct combat - strict engagement rules and a shoot-last mentality – is building tensions with the US military in Afghanistan. Last week, German soldiers were engaged in goodwill gestures, but ended up in a confused firefight with insurgents that yielded noncombatant casualties. Germany may not be ready for war, but war seems ready for Germany. For more: The New York Times

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