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Panzer Ost
by James Dunnigan
June 3, 2010

n the year since Germany changed its ROE (Rules of Engagement) for its troops in Afghanistan, more weapons, particularly armored vehicles, have been sent. This includes some 155mm self-propelled howitzers (Panzerhaubitze 2000), which are on their way, along with another 15 Marder IFVs (Infantry Fighting Vehicles), to join the ten already there. Also being sent are two self-propelled bridges, some engineer tanks and some armor recovery vehicles. There are already about a thousand armored trucks and light armored vehicles there, including a hundred Fuchs armored personnel carriers and 200 Dingos (similar to armored hummers).

For a long time, the 4,500 German troops in Afghanistan were not allowed to go looking for a fight. That evolved into increasingly getting attacked by the Taliban, or whoever the bad guy was in the neighborhood. That was because the Afghans were becoming aware of the German ROE, and taking advantage of it. But then five German soldiers got killed in Afghanistan early last year, compared to three for all of 2008, and that caused the ROE to be changed. German soldiers could now attack hostile forces, without waiting to be fired on first. The previous ROE also stipulated that German troops had to let the enemy go if the German troops were no longer being fired on.

While many Germans oppose the presence of their troops in Afghanistan, the restrictive ROEs had become a growing embarrassment. The thousands of German soldiers who had served in Afghanistan continued to complain about that when they returned home. And then there the growing number of soldiers coming back suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). In 2008, 245 German soldiers, who had served in war zones (including Afghanistan), were classified as PTSD casualties. The year before, there were only 83 PTSD casualties. This causes stress. Just the thought of it can be stressful. In the last four years, nearly 70,000 German troops have been stationed in combat (or peacekeeping) zones, where they can be exposed to traumatic events.

The actual wording of the new ROE isn't that different, in order to make the changes more politically palatable at home. But the commanders in Afghanistan have been told that they can do whatever they need to do to accomplish their peacekeeping mission, and safeguard their own troops. That no longer includes trying to avoid contact with the enemy. And now involves more armored vehicles and heavier weapons.

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