According to media reports, the German government has dropped some of the conditions of engagement under which its soldiers in Afghanistan had been bound. Bundeswehr troops will in future be able to engage in combat much earlier than has been the case.German News Magazine, Der Spiegel, reported the change in its online edition on Saturday.
The key to the new terms of engagement, Der Spiegel said, is the deletion of one sentence, which said that “the use of deadly force is forbidden as long as an attack has not taken place, or is not immediately imminent.”
Now the wording has been changed from “immediately imminent” to “recognizable”.
A further phrase, referring to appropriate use of force, was also removed from the Bundeswehr’s duty statement, opening the doors for German troops to take a more offensive stance in Afghanistan.
Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said the new wording would give soldiers the necessary legal rights to deal with combat situations.
There had been recent allegations that soldiers did not have the legal authority to bring adequate firepower to their defense when under attack.
A speaker for the German Defense Ministry responded to the report in the magazine by saying that the rules of engagement are continually under review.
The security situation in the north of the country has been deteriorating, with Taliban attacks on Bundeswehr soldiers on the rise.
In Germany, the coalition government is arguing over whether the mission, which is widely unpopular with the German public, actually means that German troops are fighting a war in the Hindu Kush.
Although Social Democrat Party chief Peter Struck, and much of the German public see it as such, the Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung seems to have a different opinion.
Meanwhile, the Christian Social Union Bavarian parliamentary group head, Peter Ramsauer, has reinforced demands for an exit-strategy for the Afghanistan deployment.
Last Thursday, the German mission to Afghanistan was expanded to include an extra 300 AWACS surveillance aircraft personnel. The German parliament voted on the deployment, with more than 80 percent in favor.
That still does not bring German troop numbers up to the maximum 4,500 permitted under the government mandate.
In total, 35 German soldiers have died in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led ISAF mission since 2002.