The Church Jesus Built, German version

What Happens After Death?, German version

Is The Bible True?, German version

Heaven or Hell?, German version

Bible Prophecy, German version

Taliban attacks take toll on German public opinion

April 20, 2010: Two deadly Taliban attacks against German patrols left seven German soldiers dead in less than two weeks at the beginning of April, the highest toll in combat deaths in so short a time span since Germany's participation in NATO's Afghanistan mission began. Public opinion polls in mid-April showed as many as 87 percent of the German people against Germany's military operations in Afghanistan.

The public reaction to German losses reflects the challenge that America's NATO allies in Europe face in meeting their obligations to the alliance's mission in Afghanistan. Earlier public opinion polls consistently showed that two-thirds of the German people opposed their country's participation in NATO's Afghanistan presence.

When German troops were first sent to Afghanistan, the German government insisted that they be stationed in northern Afghanistan instead of the southern part of the country. In their early deployment to northern Afghanistan, German troops experienced only occasional direct resistance by Taliban fighters. In recent months, however, the number of German casualties has increased as the Taliban have begun to target German patrols.

It seems as if the Taliban are now engaging America's NATO allies like the Germans in an attempt to influence public opinion back home. If so, their tactic is working, as evidenced by the reaction to April's Bundeswehr casualties. The German parliament's military representative, Reinhold Robbe of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), remarked that repeated negative public polls about the Bundeswehr's Afghanistan mission are intolerable for the soldiers deployed there. Robbe's comments echoed calls by opposition parties in the Bundestag and the Bundeswehr itself for more public support and respect for German soldiers fulfilling their assignment in Afghanistan.

German chancellor Angela Merkel responded to public and political criticism over Germany's Afghanistan mission by defending the legality of the mission and emphasizing that Germany is not immune to the threat of international terrorism. German defense minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg and military leaders emphasized that Germany will suffer more casualties in Afghanistan in the coming months, a reality not likely to make the mission more palatable for German public opinion, especially younger voters, who are already at odds with their party leaders over the issue.

As the Vietnam War proved, public opinion can be a key factor in deciding whether to continue or curtail military deployment. In this case, more than just Germany's Afghanistan presence is at stake: NATO's own future may well depend on whether the alliance is able to fulfill its mission in Afghanistan.


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