The role of Canada and her allies in Afghanistan was the topic of a lecture at Concordia University, March 28. German diplomat Jorn Rohde outlined the effect of Canadian and German deployment upon the stabilization of the country and the obstacles blocking the road towards peace in the region.
While Germany has mostly taken a non-combative role in Afghanistan, public support for the war has been waning amongst Germans at home, especially following the recent decision to deploy German fighter planes to aid the Canadians in the volatile southern regions.
“Aside from our special forces division, whose operations I cannot discuss, the role of Germany in the country has become largely logistical. We are currently establishing reconstruction teams of both military and non-military personnel, however our efforts of reconstruction go only so far as the regions that have been pacified.” said Rohde, Deputy Head of Mission at the German embassy in Ottawa.
Rohde was quick to praise the Canadian effort in the south of the country, stressing the difficulty of maintaining military control in a country three times the size of Iraq. He also criticized the efforts of Pakistan in guarding its border against the movements of Taliban-led militants into Afghanistan, pointing out their lack of control over the Pashtun tribes that move back and forth over the borders and provide many of the militants fighting the Canadian forces in the region.
“While our current position in northern Afghanistan is not as dangerous as the deployment of the Canadians near Kandahar, we have had our share of casualties. Last week, an aid worker was murdered in the supposedly pacified northern region,” he said.
Since the beginning of the war, Germany has had twenty-four casualties which include military personnel and aid workers. Unlike most NATO allies, Germany fields a parliamentary army, meaning the army cannot be sent abroad without consent from the German parliament.
Aside from opposition at home, Rohde also admitted that raising an effective Afghan police force has become an ongoing issue for the NATO allies. “We are building up the police, however pay is not very high and corruption is rampant, which makes it difficult to combat the Afghan opium trade,” said Rohde.
This summer will see an effort to create an effective police force capable of maintaining order and to establish an effective narcotics division. Canada will act in support to Germany’s effort of training the local police by contributing close to 100 RCMP personnel.
Rohde acknowledged the importance of the upcoming summer for both Germany and Canada in Afghanistan. The challenges of the police mission, an expected offensive by the Taliban, the likelihood of more casualties and waning support back home for the mission could affect the countries’ commitment in Afghanistan and thus impact NATO’s mission.
“People ask, are the Germans in the north because it is peaceful there, or is it peaceful in the north because the Germans are there? The fact is that now the region is relatively stable but if we were to leave this stability, [it] would be in danger, threatening the investment that countries such as Canada and Germany have made to Afghanistan.”