As Péter Marton puts it, “So German KSK SFs cannot shoot a known Taliban commander, responsible for a veritable carnage in New Baghlan back in 2007, when they have a clear shot at him, but it is alright for German troops to call in an F-15 to bomb stolen fuel tankers with lots of people around? This doesn’t make sense.” Indeed, it doesn’t. As Chandrasekaran reports:
Instead of sending troops to the scene for an assessment of casualties — as McChrystal’s directive requires — the Germans waited until morning to send an unmanned aircraft over the site to take photographs. The first German troops did not arrive at the scene until noon Friday. By then, all the bodies had been removed.
So not only did the German commander call in an air strike based on uncertain aerial surveillance and a single HUMINT source, he then couldn’t be bothered to go investigate the bombing site a few miles up the road for almost a day. The German commander also felt—wrongly, as it were—that to travel to either the site or the hospital where many survivors of the bombing were recovering was too dangerous.
This is not the first time the German posture in Kunduz has been astoundingly counterproductive. When an Alternative Livelihoods crew was struck by an IED in Badakhshan in 2005, killing two, the Germans refused for hours to send any help to the survivors. They were worried about being attacked while people bled out onto the road. It took hectoring from both UNAMA and the U.S. embassy (some of the victims were Americans) to get them to mount a laughably overwrought rescue mission.
As we reported in 2006, the German stance of “armed relief work”—and the extensive caveats against combat that result—has materially contributed to the appalling decline in security in the North. They do so little that tour-induced obesity has caused several German soldiers to gain so much weight sitting on their base that they are no longer considered fit for duty.
Despite that, last year the Germans had the temerity to complain about “battle fatigue.”
Germany’s near-criminal negligence in Afghanistan must come to an end (we didn’t even touch how badly they mucked up their modest police training mission). Either they need to man up and start behaving like a real army, or they need to get the hell out and let someone else do their job appropriately. Because right now, they have spent enough years making everything they touch worse off.