The World From Berlin Germany Must Stay the Course in Afghanistan

Saturday's suicide attack that killed three German soldiers in Afghanistan has prompted left-wing calls for a review of Germany's entire peacekeeping mission. But most newspaper commentators say bringing the boys home would hand the Taliban a triumph.

German troops must stay in Afghanistan despite the mounting risks of the mission, say newspaper commentators.

German troops must stay in Afghanistan despite the mounting risks of the mission, say newspaper commentators.

The attack on German soldiers in a market in the northern city of Kunduz has led to a public debate about whether Germany should withdraw its troops and whether its mission in Afghanistan still makes sense. German media commentators, even those on the left wing, agree that pulling out Germany's force would be folly.

The left-wing daily Die Tageszeitung writes:

"The death of three German soldiers won't lead parliament to reject the prolonging of the Afghanistan mission in the autumn."

"But one claim can no longer be made: that the German army is safer in the north."

Business daily Financial Times Deutschland writes:

"The German government won't let the attack deter it from using the German army to aid reconstruction in Afghanistan. That's the right approach because if it gave in to the pressure every future foreign mission would be subject to the goodwill of terrorists. An absurd notion."

The conservative daily Die Welt writes:

"Until recently there was a clear division of labor in Afghanistan within the International Security and Assistance Force. The British, Canadians, Americans and Dutch were responsible for the dangerous south, and the Germans took care of the far less dangerous north. Put coarsely -- fighters at the bottom, construction helpers at the top. That was a concession to the Germans, though not one that was publicly expressed. Because (Germans) used to be state terrorists, and then turned into exceptionally peaceful world citizens, one didn't want to force them to take on tough foreign jobs."

"But since the Taliban have adopted a new strategy, this calculation is under threat. They're no longer confining themselves to the south, where they control entire regions -- they're also starting to commit attacks in the north."

"The response in Germany was prompt … The critics from the left piped up to call Germany's entire Afghanistan mission into question. This alliance of the Left Party and the left wing of the Social Democrats is doing exactly what the Taliban want: They are using the attacks to discredit a foreign mission that is not especially popular among the German public. It is downright shabby to react to the terrible death of three fellow Germans in such a way."

Center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"The government and the political parties are right -- with the exception of the Left Party -- when they stress that the Kunduz attack must not spell the end of the mission in Afghanistan. If the Germans withdrew they might as well say goodbye to NATO. But above all, a withdrawal would endanger the many small and medium successes the Germans have already achieved with their reconstruction work. To eradicate this progress is precisely what the fundamentalists want."

"No one can foresee how long this reconstruction work will take and how many more victims it will claim. What is certain is that it cannot go on without military protection. Risks to soldiers cannot be ruled out. If they are to establish contact with people, they will have to leave their fortified camps and get out of their protected vehicles. People who take such risks should and can be sure that it's worth it."

Mass circulation Bild writes:

"Terrible though these deaths are, it would be short-sighted and dangerous to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan because of this. For one thing, Germany can't leave the war on terror up to other nations and confine its own role to that of a morally superior preacher. Second, we can only depend on the support of our alliance partners if we too contribute to the fight against terror. A withdrawal of the German army would be a triumph for the Taliban. Worse: It would render the sacrifice brought by these soldiers and the others pointless."

Left-wing Berliner Zeitung writes:

"Mixed in with the mourning over the German soldiers killed in Kunduz there's a debate about the sense and purpose of the Afghanistan mission. The majority of Germans are pacifists. After the experience of the Nazi era there is no alternative to that stance. But the term pacifism has to be broadened. Today pacifism no longer just means refraining from the use of all military options, standing aside and letting the others get on with it. Pacifism today must also mean creating peace, without weapons -- but with weapons if necessary. The German army is doing precisely that in the north of Afghanistan."

"Of course the German army could withdraw from Afghanistan tomorrow. Apart from a few headlines, a majority of the population wouldn't even notice. Pacifism, as many still want to interpret it, would have won. But they would have to accept the collateral damage of this form of pacificism -- that the Taliban would then be able to restore their bizarre rule in Afghanistan."

David Crossland, 3:30 p.m. CET


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