Thousands of Germans took to the streets in this year's Easter Marches, following a yearly tradition going back half a century to early anti-nuclear protests. Gathering in 30 different cities, the demonstrators called for nuclear disarmament and an end to the war in Afghanistan.
While their numbers were somewhat small, they represent the overwhelming majority of German public opinion on the war - a fact not lost on the CIA. In a recently leaked report prepared for the agency, authors examined the question of why France and Germany are able to contribute large contingents of soldiers to the war "despite the opposition of 80 percent of German and French respondents to increased ISAF deployments".
The answer they arrive at is that the war's "low public salience has allowed French and German leaders to disregard popular opposition". They warn, however, that an increase in European casualties could usher in a feared "backlash," which has now taken a concrete form in the recent Dutch commitment to following through on removing all troops from Afghanistan as scheduled. The CIA authors refer to this as a "precedent for 'listening to the voters,'" revealing the traditional fear of democracy necessary for functioning in elite institutions.
The dreaded backlash is getting some fuel lately:
Germany shocked by Taliban ambush
BERLIN, April 5 (UPI) - The German government for the first time spoke of being at war in Afghanistan after a heavy firefight with 80 Taliban insurgents left three German troops dead.
It was a terrible Good Friday for the NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan: First a German patrol was ambushed near Kunduz by two groups of 40 Taliban insurgents. The heavy firefight, which lasted for several hours, left three Germans dead, severely wounding eight more.
Shortly after the clashes began, another German unit was sent to help their comrades. Yet en route to the ambush, the Germans opened fire on two vehicles that officials in Berlin said would not stop approaching them despite warnings. Six Afghan troops in the vehicles were killed. While Germany says the troops approached in civilian cars, Kabul says they were military vehicles...
In Germany, observers are now calling for soldiers to better prepared for these attacks.
Ulrich Weisser, a retired German Navy admiral... urged Berlin to equip troops in Afghanistan with reconnaissance drones to Afghanistan so that ambushes like Friday's can be prevented. And to counter them, they need combat and transport helicopters as well as heavy artillery, he said. Weisser added it was "completely unacceptable" that not a single German combat helicopter has been sent to Afghanistan... (link)
Calls for German troops to get more powerful weaponry are an ominous development, though it appears there are already other efforts to "enhance" Germany's involvement in the war:
The Sunday Times (London)
RAF and Luftwaffe unite in flight
APRIL 4 - A navigator from the Luftwaffe has become the first member of his country's air force to fly into combat with the RAF...
[The navigator and his British pilot] flew about 18 missions together over a six-week period in December and January, providing air support for troops on the ground.
The aircraft was armed with 500lb laser-guided Paveway IV bombs, Brimstone air-to-ground missiles and a 27mm cannon.
The Luftwaffe navigator's role was specifically requested by Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, the German defence minister, as part of an effort to enhance the country's involvement in the Afghan war.
Its armed forces have been criticised by Nato for restrictions imposed by their government that prevent their ground troops from going out at night, operating in southern Afghanistan-where the fighting is fiercest - or taking part in offensive action.
By flying sorties in the south, the navigator has arguably breached those restrictions and his role may be seen as controversial in Germany... (link)
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