Defense Tech reports that German soldiers in Afghanistan are silently protesting against the perceived ambiguity of their mission’s purpose by snapping up patches that read “I fight for Merkel.”
The patches, technically illegal, are a big seller among German soldiers at Mazār-e Sharīf. The country’s ISAF forces have been hit hard in recent weeks, losing seven of their troops during the last month alone. Forty-four Germans have been killed since they first entered Afghanistan eight years ago. Adding to the losses is frustration with the relatively restrictive rules of engagement under which Bundeswehr personnel is forced to operate. Only under the rarest of circumstances may they aid fellow NATO countries in combat outside of their own zone.
Increasingly, German public opinion is turning against the mission. So much as 80 percent of the people is now in favor of pulling German forces out of Afghanistan. As more lives are lost, opposition to the mission is steadily mounting.
The government has in part itself to blame. From the start, politicians tried to portray the Afghan mission as little more than a police effort, stressing aid and development work while downplaying the very real risks involved. “Deaths, injuries, battles and heavy weaponry — none of these suit the picture that was painted back then,” observed the Financial Times Deutschland earlier this week.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s failure to explain just what German troops are fighting and dying for is cause for concern both at home and abroad. German troops, evidently, are equally disheartened by their political leadership’s inability to state explicitly for once what their comrades are sacrificing their lives for.
With over 4,000 troops currently stationed in Afghanistan, Germany is the third largest contributor to ISAF in terms of numbers. Germany leads the Regional Command North which oversees the provinces of Badakhshan, Baghlan, Kunduz and Takhar.