Events are starting to move quickly in North Africa, with a visit by the most senior American official yet to the rebel leadership — as well as reports of the French dispatching 12 attack helicopters on May 17 to the region to assist rebel forces. The force was dispatched on the amphibious assault ship Le Tonnerre. Now it appears that Britain intends to send attack helicopters, too.
The biggest fighter competition in the world just got more serious. India is indicating that it may bring forward the decision date for its Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) program competition to before March 2012. The reason for this lies in Pakistan receiving 50 Chinese JF-17 fighters more quickly than India had expected. It could also be a move to signal to China and Pakistan that it isn’t afraid to engage in an arms race. Lately India and China have squabbled over borders and visas.
German defense officials were pressured into an embarrassing u-turn last week. The issue surrounds protests outside of a German base in northern Afghanistan and reports that German troops fired into the crowds. Initially the German Defense Ministry denied the reports, but has now admitted that German troops did deliberately fire into the crowd to protect the base — and that 12 Afghans died in the chaos.
The instigator for the violence was a raid by American Special Forces that killed four, including two women. Local witnesses said that the funeral march passed by a small base housing a German Provincial Advisory Team and it was here that things got ugly. According to witnesses, both the Germans and their Afghan guards were in a “full self-defense mode.” They first issued verbal and visual warnings using hand signals, before shooting into the air and then firing “targeted shots” into the crowd, apparently aiming for protesters’ legs.
The tragedy will only serve to inflame the passionate debate within Germany over its role in Afghanistan and the world.