Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Shoot Last? Perhaps Not Anymore

For a brief glimpse of what Dave and I have been studying the past couple of years, see this piece in the NY Times (yes, I said it was dead, but occasionally they do decent work). The article focuses on the Germans, although other NATO nations have similar constraints (I am thinking of Italy, but Spain and others as well).

Driven by necessity, some of the 4,250 German soldiers here, the third-largest number of troops in the NATO contingent, have already come a long way. “They shoot at us and we shoot back,” said Staff Sgt. Erik S., who, according to German military rules, could not be fully identified. “People are going to fall on both sides. It’s as simple as that. It’s war.” The sergeant added, “The word ‘war’ is growing louder in society, and the politicians can’t keep it secret anymore.”

Indeed, German politicians have refused to utter the word, trying instead to portray the mission in Afghanistan as a mix of peacekeeping and reconstruction in support of the Afghan government. But their line has grown less tenable as the insurgency has expanded rapidly in the west and north of the country, where Germany leads the regional command and provides a majority of the troops.
Some of the restrictions upon the Germans include:

Germany’s military actions are controlled by a parliamentary mandate, which is up for renewal in December. The German contingent has unarmed drones and Tornado fighter jets, which are restricted to reconnaissance and are not allowed to conduct offensive operations.

German soldiers usually stay in Afghanistan for just four months, which can make it difficult to maintain continuity with their Afghan partners. The mandate also caps the number of troops in the country at 4,500.

To be clear, as our work has found, not all of the restrictions come from the Bundestag. The German legislature's mandates focus on the size of the force (aka force cap), where it can operate (Regional Command-North--the Northeastern sector) unless the Minister of Defense consents to a short redeployment, and limits upon the use of Tornados. BUT other limits, such as the short rotations, the rules of under what conditions a German soldier can fire, and the like are made within the Ministry of Defense, as far as we can tell.

Of course, this example shows a risky element to our current project--that we are studying a moving target--the thing we are studying is changing as we study it. Makes for a fun time. We hope to finish the book by the end of the summer 2010.

No comments: