Caveats and combat in northern Afghanistan

For years, there has been low-level tension between the NATO countries whose troops were engaged in active combat in Afghanistan–including the U.S., Canada, and the Netherlands–and those, like Germany, who insisted that their troops stay out of harm’s way. Now, with the insurgency spreading, NATO’s German contingent is increasingly being forced into combat situations.

What is alarming for Western commanders and the Afghan Government are signs that the northern insurgency is gaining a hold outside the Pashtun ethnic community. Pashtuns are a minority in the Tajik-dominated north. When German troops first deployed in Afghanistan in 2002 the north was seen as the safest part of the country and Berlin has resisted Nato’s requests to send its soldiers to more volatile regions.

Unsurprisingly, casualties are fast eroding German public support for the mission. At some point soon, NATO may need to consider repositioning the German contingent. Germany’s aversion to combat may be maddening to those even deeper in the fray, but it is a political reality that cannot be avoided.

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About David Bosco

Assistant Professor at American University's School of International Service. Contributing editor at Foreign Policy magazine. Author of Rough Justice: The International Criminal Court in a World of Power Politics and Five to Rule Them All: The UN Security Council and the Making of the Modern World
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