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German Soldiers in Afghanistan Wear Protest on Their Sleeve

Afghan commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal is in Germany at the moment where he might need to help the government there with a bit of messaging on Afghanistan. German troops have been buying up badges saying “I Fight For Merkel,” an ironic jab at German Chancellor Angela Merkel who they say has failed to explain why German troops are fighting and dying in Afghanistan. The protest badges have reportedly sent shock waves through the Bundeswehr leadership.

The German contingent in Afghanistan has been hit hard in recent weeks, with seven dead in the last month, bringing the total German killed to 43 since they entered Afghanistan eight years ago. Bundeswehr soldiers operate under fairly restrictive rules of engagement, which has led to much griping from fellow coalition members and frustration among German soldiers.

German public opposition to the war sits at about 80 percent. The Financial Times Deutschland said:

“With every dead German soldier in Afghanistan, the calls for an immediate withdrawal grow louder. This reflex shows that the German public is still not clear about the character of the mission. The politicians are largely to blame. Since the beginning of the mission eight years ago they suppressed a realistic description of the situation... Deaths, injuries, battles and heavy weaponry -- none of these suit the picture that was painted back then.”
The Canadians are due to leave Afghanistan next year, leaving a hole down in the south which will be difficult to fill with mostly American troops. Some 5,000 U.S. troops are being sent to Regional Command North, to bolster the 4,500 Bundeswehr soldiers there; the U.S. troops will fight under German command. Forced to fill gaps in the line left by departing coalition partners, McChrystal could quickly run out of available troops in a vast country where they are already spread far too thinly.

-- Greg

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