For decades, Germany was Afghanistan's best friend. It built many
of the nation's factories, schools, and electric plants and trained
its police force and university professors, creating ample goodwill
among the Afghan people.
"The Afghans have large - one might even say blind - confidence
that they will be supported by the Germans," said Afghan President
Hamid Karzai during a visit to Berlin this week.
Indeed, as NATO has endeavored to rid Afghanistan of the
Taliban's influence and bring security to the struggling nation,
Germany has played a prominent role. Though its wariness of combat
has made Germany resistant to entering Afghanistan's restive south,
its peacekeeping troops form the third-largest contingent among
coalition forces after the US and the Britain.
But German doubts about the nation's expanding role in
Afghanistan have arisen in recent months, fueled by a spate of
attacks against German citizens and a plan to send six Tornado
reconnaissance jets and 500 more soldiers to Afghanistan in April.
The controversy has created a conflict within Germany's grand
coalition government that echoes the crises faced by other European
nations such as Italy, where Prime Minister Romano Prodi was
temporarily forced to step down last month, largely because of
discontent over his nation's role in the Afghan conflict.
At the time, 62 percent of Italians were in favor of total
withdrawal, according to the Guardian newspaper. In comparison, a
poll published Monday by news magazine Der Spiegel showed 57 percent
of Germans want their government to pull out its 3,000 troops.
The rift in German Parliament was brought into sharp focus when
lawmakers voted on the Tornado deployment. In a rare show of
protest, 69 members of the Social Democrat party, one of the two
main factions in the the grand coalition government, broke ranks
with party leadership and voted against the measure.
Since then, many of the party's lawmakers have publicly railed
against the plan. Former cabinet minister Renate Schmidt warned at a
recent meeting that Germany risked a "slide into a second Vietnam,"
according to Der Spiegel.
Two members of Angela Merkel's party, the Christian Democrats,
filed suit to block the deployment, saying it violated Germany's
Constitution to support the "human-rights-violating war conduct of
the United States"; the case was dismissed last week.
The party's leadership has insisted that Germany must stay the
course. "If we leave Afghanistan now, the situation would only
deteriorate," the Christian Democrats' foreign policy spokesman
Eckart von Klaeden told the Monitor. "Afghanistan would be
reestablished as a haven for terrorists and Islamic extremists, and
we would lose all credibility in the Muslim world."
Adding to German concerns is the recent murder of a German aid
worker in Afghanistan. …