|KSK commander Ammon interviewed: to kill is a part of the job
Brigadier General Hans-Christoph Ammon, commander of the Special Forces Command (KSK) of the Bundeswehr in Calw, interviewed by the Rheinische Post daily. Ammon comments on the critical situation in Afghanistan, on the secrecy of operations, the issue of killing a foe, the difficulties to attract young recruits, the archetype of a warrior and women as commando operatives.
Where is the KSK active right now?
In Afghanistan. That's no secret. Our job is to protect the German troops directly and indirectly.
What does that mean? You take on the Taliban before they pose a threat to German soldiers?
Yes, that's right. But I'm not going to say more.
You've been to Afghanistan before, you coordinated the combat operations of international forces there among other things. Their current commander Stanley McChrystal says there is a draw between borth parties. How do you think about this development?
I am not so presumptuous to disagree with General McChrystal or pretend I would know it better. He is down there and has a more complete picture of the situation. Regardless I think the situation has deteriorated especially in the north over the past two years. It is necessary to stop this.
Wouldn't withdrawal be an easier solution?
We have undertaken a task still unfinished in 2001 by the German Bundestag and in doing so by our people. If we were to stop today just because it hurts, then we would expose the people of Afghanistan to great misery which might even exceed the distress they suffered before 2001. It must be allowed to live in peace and to be self-determined. So we still have a lot of things to do.
Does the German public understand this? Lack of interest as well as rejection seem to be large. Does it make you angry when in the eyes of many "Germany's got a talent" is more important than, let's say the state mourning ceremony for fallen soldiers?
Angry? No. It is sometimes bitter to accept the ignorance and indifference which parts of the people show towards the actions of our soldiers. This must prompt us to think about how we can change that. I think only an open and honest information policy about what is happening in the theater and what our troops have to do there is going to make a difference. It took dramatic events to make the politicians change their mind there. But we are now on the right track. Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg is to be praised there. He also encouraged us to help inform the society.
Operations, that means constant danger to the troops. How do you as a superior officer handle that?
To clarify: I am not leading my troops into battle. That's the job of the special operations command center in Potsdam. I'm just the troop contributor and make soldiers fit for deployments. But I can answer the question nontheless: getting the job done is the most important thing. Nevertheless, I am aware of my responsibilities for my troops. In the event of their death or injury I dove have to explain myself to their families, to the society and to God. That is the burden I have to live with.
Secrecy is more important for special forces as for other military organizations. Does it irritate you when details on equipment, operations and structure of the KSK can be found on the Internet?
No. Some things that can be found there make me smile. Not everything must be qualified and reflecting the truth.
But special forces happily surround themselves with a mysterious veil, don't they?
There are two areas in which I take secrecy very seriously: On the one hand there is the identity of my soldiers so that they and their families are protected from possible acts of revenge by terrorists, among other things. This is also the reason why they must wear a mask at public appearances.
On the other hand there are our current operations. Our potential targets must not be warned! Everything else is just paranoia. We used to keep everything secret but in doing so, only promoted legends and rumors about our command. I want to take on that.
Up to now, it has only been a rumor that the KSK hunted war criminals in former Yugoslavia and handed them over to the International Court of Justice. Can we talk about that now?
Yes, this is no longer a secret: Of course the KSK was deployed to the Balkans, to Bosnia as well as to Kosovo.
You also train hostage rescue. But when the "Hansa Stavanger" merchant vessel was hijacked by pirates in May 2009, it was the GSG9 of the Federal Police supposed to act and not you, even though you probably would have worked better with the Navy. Where is the dividing line?
This line is about to be redefined right now so I'm not making further comments on that. At that time, it was clear that the Federal Police was responsible for hostage rescue.
Are you as "General of Special Forces" of the Bundeswehr also superior to the combat divers of the Navy?
No, there is no uni