German Parliament Extends Troops’ Anti-terror Mandate
Germany’s parliament Thursday extended the mandate of German troops serving in global anti-terror operations but reduced their number from 1,400 to 800.
Legislators voted 428-130 in favor of allowing troops to continue serving in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), which was set up in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
Currently there are around 110 German military personnel involved in OEF operations on the Horn of Africa and the Mediterranean Sea. The missions will be extended until the end of 2009.
No anti-terror operations in Afghanistan
The new mandate rescinds the mandate for German KSK special forces to serve in OEF operations in Afghanistan where up to 100 troops had been on call to help fight terrorism there.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier had called for the end of the mandate as the elite KSK soldiers had not been deployed in OEF in three years.
The special forces will still be allowed to serve with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which is under a UN mandate.
The German parliament recently approved an extension of the mandate for up to to 4,500 German troops serving with ISAF in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan mission controversial in Germany
The Afghan aspect of the OEF has been controversial in Germany because of the growing number of civilians killed in military operations against the Taliban.
Walter Kolbow, deputy head of the Social Democratic parliamentary group, said extending the anti-terrorism mandate was the right decision because “the danger of international terrorism has yet to be eliminated.”
Both Operation Enduring Freedom and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) missions in Afghanistan have been criticized by German lawmakers after recent cases of civilian deaths.
In late October, German soldiers fired on a vehicle that failed to stop at a checkpoint wounding five Afghans, and two German soldiers and five children were killed by a suicide bomber. A total of about 4,500 German troops are stationed in Afghanistan.
Members of the opposition from the Greens and Left parties opposed the extension while Chancellor Angela Merkel’s broad ruling coalition of Social and Christian democrats as well as the free-market liberal FDP voted in favor the measure.
OEF was a direct response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. It has become extremely controversial in Germany and been highly unpopular with German voters and many politicians on the political left because of the high number of civilian deaths caused by the fight against Taliban insurgents.