Counter-Terrorism: Germany Steps Up

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January 18, 2016: Germany is sending another 550 troops to Mali and Iraq. This is another response to the November 13 Islamic terror attacks in Paris and the realization that Europe has more to do in fighting Islamic terrorists worldwide in order to reduce their vulnerability at home. Most (500) of these troops are going to northern Mali to help the French forces that have been fighting Islamic terrorists there since early 2013. The German troops will be helping with the peacekeeping in northern Mali and will mainly work with the 11,000 (mostly African) peacekeepers already there. The German troops are better trained and equipped than most of the peacekeepers already there and will be able to provide emergency combat support that is currently provided by French troops are mainly involved with actively seeking out the remaining Islamic terrorists.

The rest (50) of the additional German troops will go to northern Iraq to join the hundred Germans already there training Kurdish forces. The Kurds are the best local fighters in Iraq and the Germans have found that the Kurds make the most of whatever additional training they get.

Germany has been a major (at least from the West) contributor to peacekeeping operations since the Cold War ended in 1991. This was done even though had to reorganize and reduce its armed forces from 400,000 troops equipped and trained to fight a conventional war to fewer than 200,000 mainly oriented towards peacekeeping. In 1991 there were another 250,000 troops in the communist East German armed forces and as the Cold War ended the two Germanys united and East German forces were disbanded and the West German military absorbed some of the East German troops. With the Soviet Union gone, and the former Soviet allies in East Europe clamoring to join NATO Germany no longer had any local enemies. The Cold War German army of Panzertruppen (mechanized troops) had lost its mission. Thus in two decades, German armed forces have been reduced to less than a third of their 1991 strength of 650,000.

Today, a reunited Germany has an army of peacekeepers. Well, only 5-10,000 of them are involved in peacekeeping at any one time, out of 177,000 troops. Not only is the army smaller, but it has older equipment, and less of it. Not much purchasing of new stuff after 1991 and much of what was bought was to support peacekeeping missions. The peacekeepers, particularly in Afghanistan, go more modern gear, and the expense of this is another reason for shrinking the size of armed forces.

While the German army is smaller and, until 2011, still depended on conscripts for about 25 percent of its troops. Germany always managed to find enough effective troops for peacekeeping, and special operations. Just not many of them. The generals had long asked for an all-volunteer force but for a long time the politicians, and public opinion, were opposed to this. Public opinion won and the all-volunteer force has had no shortage of volunteers for peacekeeping duty, even in dangerous areas.

 


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