Germany debates broader military mandate in counter-piracy operations


Following an aborted action by Germany’s elite anti-terrorism police unit, the GSG9, to free a kidnapped freighter in Somalia, Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble wants to broaden the mandate of the Bundeswehr.

KSK fast rope

By a constitutional change the German military would be made responsible for an area which has until now been the province of the police.

“Under the constitution, the GSG 9 is responsible for these kind of eventualities, but really, it should be the military’s duty. For them to do this duty, though, we have to lay the legal foundations, and that means changing the constitution.” Schaeuble said in an interview with the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

The Minister said it was decided to send the GSG 9 to Africa because the Bundesdwehr alone couldn’t come up with the necessary resources to carry out a hostage liberation at sea.

Shortly before the planned operation could take place, consultations with the officer in command led to its cancellation. Before the GSG 9 could reach the scene, the kidnappers had brought the ship into port. The situation became much more dangerous, as more pirates had gone aboard and the risk that police or hostages could be killed in an operation became too high.

German weekly Der Spiegel tells the story somewhat differently. The magazine says a GSG 9 dress rehearsal aboard the US helicopter ship “Boxer” was a success, but at the last minute the US withdrew support for the operation.

Der Spiegel also blamed coordination difficulties between the operational commander and high command in Berlin. On top of that, they say there were conflicts between the Police Special Ops GSG 9 and the Bundeswehr. The GSG 9 are better trained for hostage operations than the military’s special forces, but for the transport abroad they depended on the army.

Schaeuble said the constitutional changes he has recommended are provided for under the coalition agreement between the Christian Democratic Union and the Social Democratic Party, but he criticized that the Social Democrats have so far blocked the changes.

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