Schröder: No German troops to Iraq

In an interview with DW-TV, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder confirms Germany’s commitment to fight terrorism and work toward stability in Afghanistan. But he says there are no plans to send German soldiers to Iraq.

After the attack on the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad which killed 24 people, the German government came under mounting pressure to rethink its attitude toward military involvement in Iraq. However, in an interview conducted on the lawn of the chancellery in central Berlin, Gerhard Schröder reiterated that no German soldiers will be going to Iraq.

“There are no concrete requests vis-à-vis the German government to send soldiers to Iraq, neither by the coalition forces, nor by the United Nations,” the chancellor said. “This is why there’s simply no need to enter into such a theoretical debate at present. You also have to see that our capacities are limited.”

At present German troops are involved in large-scale operations in Afghanistan, the Balkans and the Horn of Africa. Estimates are the soldiers will be posted there for some time to come. According to officials in the Bundeswehr, or German Federal Armed Forces, the military is already stretched to the limit.

“Let’s not forget that in Germany itself we have some 3,000 soldiers protecting various bases, installations and other objects belonging to the United States and Britain. So, nobody can accuse Germany of doing too little in the fight against terrorism,” Schröder told Deutsche Welle.

While Germany’s military might not have the strength to go into Iraq, there is little desire among German politicians and military officials to enter into a situation on the ground in Iraq which seems to be deteriorating. There are also objections on principle. Although Berlin promised humanitarian and reconstruction aid to Iraq after the end of the U.S.-led invasion, the government has argued that those who waged the war must also deal with all issues concerning stability in the country.

Commitment to Afghanistan

Addressing the situation in Afghanistan, Chancellor Schröder said it had become increasingly obvious that more has to be done on the ground to support the caretaker government of Hamid Karsai. Germany, he added, was in principle prepared to go the extra mile and contribute to reconstruction teams in the provinces, which are still largely controlled by warlords and considered extremely dangerous.

“I’d like to stress that Germany’s involvement in Afghanistan has been substantial. And I think that it’s fair to say that without our commitment, there would be less security and stability in and around Kabul. Now, it’s of course important to export this security level in the capital to other regions in Afghanistan.

He said Germany has a fact-finding delegation currently in the Kundus region to see whether it is feasible to send a German provincial reconstruction team there in future to be protected by Bundeswehr soldiers.

“It’s too early to speculate whether this will materialize. But if conditions turn out to be okay, me might be sending between 50 and 300 people to Kundus,” the chancellor said.

Chancellor Schröder also had talks in Berlin with Richard Lugar, a key U.S. Senate Republican and chairman of the foreign relations committee. Lugar has come out in favor of a new UN resolution on Iraq to help secure greater international support in peace-keeping efforts by the coalition forces. The two discussed the current tense transatlantic relationship and Lugar encouraged Germany to rethink its “no” to military involvement in Iraq, although he did not meet with much success.

© DW-online 2003

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