Germany rejects US demand to increase Afghan deployment

A bitter diplomatic row between Germany and the United States deepened yesterday after Berlin flatly rejected demands from Washington that it deploy troops in war-torn southern Afghanistan and angrily dismissed the request as "impertinent" and a "fantastic cheek".

Germany currently has some 3,200 soldiers stationed in comparatively tranquil northern Afghanistan and the capital Kabul as part of the current Nato peacekeeping mission. It has been urged to deploy troops in the south before but has consistently refused. Yesterday however, it became clear that Washington had stepped up pressure on Berlin to commit troops to the south.

The move followed increased Taliban attacks and threats from Canada that it would withdraw its Afghanistan contingent completely unless more Nato troops were sent south. Canada has lost 77 combat troops in the region.

Two US non-governmental studies released this week warned that Afghanistan could once again become a failed state and terrorist haven.

Details of what was described as an "unusually stern" letter written by Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, to Franz Josef Jung, his German counterpart, were leaked to the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper yesterday.

The letter described Germany's performance as "disappointing" and asked it to consider a new Afghanistan mandate which would enable its paratroopers and helicopter units to be sent to the south of the country. It said the US wanted German soldiers to help replace an American contingent of 2,200 troops which is to be withdrawn this autumn.

Germany's response was a mixture of outrage and surprise. Initial comments leaked from an unnamed defence ministry source described the Gates' letter as "impertinent", and as a "fantastic cheek". One official accused Mr Gates of trying to inflict "psychological torture" on Germany.

Chancellor Angela Merkel let it be known through her spokesman that the issue was "not up for discussion". Franz-Walter Steinmeier, the German Foreign minister, also flatly rejected the idea. "I think we must continue to focus our attention on the north," he said.

Mr Jung later justified the German position insisting that there were "clear regional divisions" regarding troop deployment in Afghanistan. "Our current mandate only allows for German soldiers to be sent to the south in emergencies," he said. The issue is expected to come to a head next week when Nato defence ministers meet in Lithuania to discuss Afghanistan. Social Democrat MPs in Ms Merkel's conservative-led grand coalition government also argued strongly against the idea of sending troops south. Rainer Arnold, the party's defence spokesman, warned that the idea risked undermining the already shaky public support for Germany's entire Afghanistan mission.

"I cannot see broad acceptance for this idea coming from parliament or from the public", he said "This is a precondition for our continued presence in Afghanistan." Germany's presence in the relatively peaceful north of Afghanistan is already unpopular. An opinion poll last year suggested that more than 50 per cent of Germans wanted a complete withdrawal of troops. Ms Merkel's government is currently facing opposition to plans to deploy a 200-strong unit of combat forces in the north to replace a Norwegian unit which is currently policing the region.

Germany has already been afforded a special Nato caveat which in effective prohibits its troops from going on the offensive unless they are first attacked. At next Thursday's Nato summit in Vilnius, Germany is expected to come under intense pressure to lift the caveat.

Several German commentators attacked the government for rejecting the American request. The left-leaning Süddeutsche Zeitung accused politicians of being afraid of the voters.

* The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, will visit London next week to discuss strategy on Afghanistan, Iran and other issues with the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband. Ms Rice, who arrives on Wednesday, will also meet the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Property Inspection Inventory Clerk

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a fast growing in...

Recruitment Genius: PSV/PCV & HGV Mechanics

£29000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: PSV/PCV Mechanics & HGV mechani...

Recruitment Genius: Reprographics Operator

£12500 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest independent Reprogr...

Recruitment Genius: Web Design Apprentice

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well established websit...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee