Federal Minister zu Guttenberg: “We must make a success of Afghanistan!”
Berlin, 01.02.2010, bild.de.
Federal Minister of Defence Karl-Theodor Freiherr zu Guttenberg spoke to the “Bild” newspaper (online version) about the change of strategy in Afghanistan and the cornerstones of the new strategy.
Minister, what changes will the new strategy bring about to the operations involving German troops?
Recently, the Afghan people have felt more and more helplessly exposed to the influence of the Taliban. This has to change. But not in the form of large-scale, military offensives. The Americans have realised this too, and have adapted their strategy. We must all get closer to the Afghan people and give them protection, hence isolating the Taliban and, in doing so, cutting the ground from under them.
Could you be a little more specific?
The change of strategy will bring about changes in daily military routine. Our troops will perform duties outside the large camps more often and for longer periods. They will, of course, be equipped with the best possible protection, as has always been the case. The troops are tasked with providing training alongside the Afghans throughout the operational area and with securing certain areas for the population’s benefit. However, we will not be marching about indiscriminately and, thus already making ourselves an easy target.
Will this make it more dangerous?
We should not beat about the bush here – the Afghanistan mission certainly remains dangerous, further fatalities and casualties on operations may occur. The new strategy, however, does not automatically increase this risk. Together with the Afghan security forces, we must take control of the Taliban’s retreats district by district, particularly in the area around Kunduz. When training has been successfully provided and such an area has become increasingly free of Taliban, the Afghans can take over the responsibility on their own. Driving along mainly the same routes in armoured convoys, the usual practice in the past, also makes troops vulnerable.
Will it be necessary to change the Bundeswehr’s Rules of Engagement?
The tactical rules will be reviewed and, where necessary, adapted to the new strategy. However, this does not mean switching to general passivity. The troops will still have to be able to accomplish their mission effectively, and if need be, with the use of armed force.
When will we know whether or not the new concept is going to work?
By autumn 2010, we should be able to tell whether we will be successful...
And if not, will that be it?
We have to be successful. That is also the responsibility of Afghanistan’s leaders, who have now been given another new opportunity. There will not be many more opportunities of this kind.
Or will Afghanistan ultimately become a new Vietnam, where the pro-western regime could not survive when the Americans pulled out?
Afghanistan will not be like Vietnam, because we will not transfer responsibility to the Afghans in panic, but only after thorough preparation. And even then, there may still be a spot of trouble in Afghanistan from time to time, but hopefully, international security will not be threatened by this. And that is what counts.
Will the Committee of Inquiry also be able to conclusively clarify the role played by the Special Forces Command in the events of 4 September 2009?
I hope that the Committee of Inquiry will succeed in fully clarifying the roles of all those involved in the events of 4 September 2009.