The Afghan Insurgency 'Germany Can Do More'

Canada's defense minister is ratcheting up pressure on his NATO allies in Europe, saying Germany's Bundeswehr and other militaries must join the fight in hotly contested southern Afghanistan. In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, Peter MacKay argues that Germans should be doing more to stop the Taliban insurgency.

German soldiers in Afghanistan: Canada is increasing pressure on its NATO allies to do more in the south.

German soldiers in Afghanistan: Canada is increasing pressure on its NATO allies to do more in the south.

SPIEGEL: Canadian politicians have been very critical of the German decision not to send more troops into southern Afghanistan. Do you think of the Germans as quitters?

MacKay: I don't think of Germans as quitters by any stretch. Their contribution in Afghanistan is very valuable. However, our roles are different. Germany's presence there actually outnumbers Canada's. But they are based primarily in the north, near Kabul, while we are based in the south -- in Kandahar, where some of the heaviest fighting in Afghanistan is going on. The criticism centers around burden sharing, about that combat versus non-combatant role.

SPIEGEL: You mean: You don’t want to do the "dirty work" of fighting and dying anymore.

MacKay: I understand there are domestic challenges in Germany when it comes to troop deployment. Yet, there are also international responsibilities that we all share. Canada takes its role seriously, and we have had more than 80 casualties in Afghanistan. We are not criticizing other countries for not being there. We are simply suggesting that in a NATO mission such as this it puts a lot of pressure on a few countries if there is not the possibility to spread out the more dangerous parts of this mission. We don’t want to see a two-tiered NATO. All members have to contribute what they can.

SPIEGEL: You want more German troops in southern Afghanistan?

MacKay: Absolutely. We want more French, Spanish, Italian troops in the south, too. Just look at what countries are there or were there: The Romanians, the Estonians and the Danes. These are countries that arguably have less military capacity than Germany.

SPIEGEL: But that would be very unpopular with the German public. What case would you make to voters here?

MacKay: Germany is the beneficiary of a stable Afghanistan that is no longer an exporter of terrorism. All of us have a self-interest in containing that threat. That means ultimately: to sacrifice the lives of young men and women, as part of a broader effort that has the backing of a United Nations Security Council resolution.

SPIEGEL: Are you disappointed that Angela Merkel has not made that case more aggressively?

MacKay: She is a very able advocate and has shown strong leadership. I admire the fortitude of the Germans -- the way they have rebuilt their country after World War II is a testimony to that. I think, quite frankly, in a mission such as this Germany is capable of more. And the German soldiers know that, maybe more than anyone else. They want to do more, that is my impression.

SPIEGEL: Many Germans argue that our historical legacy prevents us from getting more involved in the actual fighting.

MacKay: Every country has its history. Germany, like Canada, has the same capacity to be a force for good in the world. My impression is that lately Germans are feeling a greater sense of pride, a greater strength of their own identity. They recognize that Germany is a very powerful international power. And part of that role is sometimes the use of military power for peacekeeping and peacemaking.

SPIEGEL: What would happen if nothing happens? That is, if NATO members don't send additional troops to southern Afghanistan in a year's time?

MacKay: The future of Afghanistan rests in the hands of NATO. And the Taliban and terror organizations are like cancer -- they spread and they put more lives at risk, all around the world. We Canadians have recognized this global responsibility: When the world comes to our door, we answer the call.

Interview conducted by Gregor Peter Schmitz.


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