Germany to amend ‘national caveat’ NATO rules for Afghanistan
The NATO chain of command is riddled with what are called “National Caveats.” These are the specific rules of engagement that NATO member countries prescribe for their specific troops as a precondition of engagement in the conflict. The rules are highly variable. Some countries say their troops can only engage in conflict in the case of self-defense, others that they cannot fight to protect the troops of other nominated countries. It is a logistical and command nightmare.
Germany has long faced criticism for its national caveats in Afghanistan. Germany’s rules means that its troops, mainly limited to the more peaceful North region of Afghanistan, will only patrol in armored vehicles. Generally, they will also not leave their bases at night. Some observers claim these caveats make the German troops of limited value. The more cynical say it means that the Taliban can move freely in the region under the cover of nightfall, much to the frustration of other security forces. It looks as though this is all to change though.
It seems at last that Germany has agreed to use similar ‘partnering’ strategies to the US troops. This will Germans troops conduct all patrols and operations in cooperation with Afghan Security Forces and often travel on foot to show their presence to the Afghans. This is a major, and much welcomed change to the frustration and confusion caused by these varying NATO national caveats.
“We know the risk might be a little bigger,” the leader of the patrol I am with tells me, “but we are ready. The one time we did get out of our vehicles and spoke to people they really liked and spoke to us.”
Other soldiers have echoed this sentiment, saying they believe operating and even living with their Afghan counterparts will bring the Afghan National Security Forces up to speed faster, while giving NATO a larger presence within the towns and villages so often infiltrated by the Taliban.
Germany, however, is keen to get out of Afghanistan as soon as security conditions permit. The NATO mission is deeply unpopular among Germans, which some 70 percent saying their forces should leave in a recent poll.
“I think it is quite impossible for the international community to win a war in Afghanistan,” Germany’s Defense Minister Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg told me recently. “Winning will mean security, a perspective for the Afghan people and winning an Afghan face and not a desperate international face