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 It said the US wanted German soldiers to help replace an American contingent of 2,200 troops which is to be withdrawn this autumn.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
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: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor