NATO officer warns of imminent danger of more German combat casualties in Afghan war


Berlin : Germany has to brace itself for additional combat casualties in Afghanistan once a 240-strong German Quick Reaction Force (QRF) is to replace a Norwegian unit in July, a Norwegian NATO officer told Friday’s edition of the Berlin-based Tagesspiegel newspaper.

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The present head of the NATO-led QRF, Rune Solberg said German troops had to be “prepared to fight a war and lose their own lives.” He urged the German government to explain to the nation as to why German soldiers had to fight in Afghanistan.

At least 21 German soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since January 2002.

Around 3,500 German soldiers are presently based in northern Afghanistan as part of the NATO-headed International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

“If the majority of the German population opposes it (the Afghan mission), it will be very difficult for German soldiers to join,” added Solberg.

Most Germans oppose taking part in ISAF operations in war- stricken Afghanistan, according to various opinion polls.

Earlier this week, a German Defense Ministry spokesman stressed no decision had yet been taken on deploying QRF in Afghanistan this summer.

“We have to await NATO’s decision whether such a request (for such a force) is made,” Thomas Raabe said in remarks to journalists in Berlin on Wednesday.

“It makes little sense to speculate what the decision will be made,” he added.

Raabe pointed out that the QRF is mandated within the rules of engagement of ISAF.

The German press reported earlier in the day that Berlin was to deploy 250 additional soldiers in northern Afghanistan this summer.

It quoted a lawmaker of the co-ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD) as saying that the new troops will be deployed for combat action unlike other German soldiers who are stationed in Mazar-i Sharif as part of ISAF.

The defense expert of the SPD faction, Rainer Arnold added that German combat troops were to differ from other German ISAF soldiers in terms of their equipment, training and combat orders and could also be used for “hunting terrorists”.

Berlin has faced intense pressure in recent months from its NATO allies, notably the US, Britain and Canada, to expand its military presence into southern Afghanistan where NATO forces are battling a revitalized Taliban insurgency.