Partnering in Afghanistan New McChrystal Approach Means Greater Danger for German Forces

US General Stanley McChrystal met with German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg in Berlin Wednesday.
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US General Stanley McChrystal met with German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg in Berlin Wednesday.

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Part 2: 'New and Greater Risks'


For the Germans, the new strategy involves far greater risks than before, as the deaths of the four soldiers last week made clear. Although the operation "Taohid II" that the soldiers were participating in did not make any real use of partnering, it was intended as a kind of blueprint for how the Bundeswehr can give practical training to Afghan soldiers. The aim was to drive the Taliban out of the Baghlani-jadid area with 3,000 Afghan soldiers using concentrated force. The Germans were to support the operation with logistics and technology. In last week's attack, three soldiers were killed by a booby trap and a doctor died when the armored ambulance he was traveling in came under fire.

Guttenberg assured McChrystal that the Bundeswehr would also train the Afghan National Army (ANA) in combat operations beginning at the start of 2011. The defense minister is speaking these days in increasingly realistic terms about the new approach. The partnering strategy conceals "new and greater risks" than current Bundeswehr activities, he said Wednesday. The situation in the north will become "dangerous, in parts even very dangerous," he said, adding that there was no point in "beating around the bush" when discussing the issue.

Apart from his official appearance, McChrystal also spoke very directly about the mission, in particular about the German-controlled north of Afghanistan. During the session at the Ritz-Carlton, he announced, without giving details, more military operations against the Taliban in their strongholds around Kunduz and Baghlan. "We have already achieved a lot there, and together we will do even more this year," he said. He described the German-led Regional Command North as "extremely important," particularly because of an vital new NATO supply route, which will transport cargo from Latvia to northern Afghanistan via Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Helping the Germans

With McChrystal's visit, both sides wanted to signal that they now want to work together rather than at cross purposes, as has often been the case in the past. As well as his meeting with Guttenberg, the US general also spoke with the heads of Germany's intelligence services and called for a better exchange of information on the Taliban. Guttenberg, for his part, paid tribute to the US pilots and medics who risked their lives to rescue German soldiers from the two recent deadly skirmishes in northern Afghanistan.

German forces will be increasingly dependent on US help in the coming months. The Bundeswehr has long suffered from significant gaps when it comes to the air transport of troops and special forces. The US Army is now moving quickly to fill these gaps. McChrystal will redeploy at least 56 US helicopters to Kunduz and Mazar-e-Sharif in the coming weeks.

This massive aid will also, however, make it harder for the Germans to resist the new, at times very robust, American strategy -- including the relentless pursuit of the Taliban.

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