Peter’s Atlantic Round-Up


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Tiger helicopter and assault ship. Via

Tiger helicopter and assault ship. Via


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.


5 Responses to “Peter’s Atlantic Round-Up”

  1. Brian Black says:

    I didn’t know Britain had any attack helicopters to spare.

    The attack on the Mazar-e-Sharif UN compound shows how quickly these heated but originally peaceful protests can escalate, and the level of violence that can ultimately result when a protest is hijacked by violent groups.
    The German response was probably entirely justified.

  2. Prestwick says:

    A few news sources (including Speigel) cite locals saying that the Germans used every possible recourse short of wading into the crowd and physically carrying people away before resorting to violent force.

    The problem is to us and many other nations this would be accepted and after a prudent and sane investigation lessons would be learned, etc. However to Germany this could be the start of something really bad for the Bundeswehr similar to what happened to the Canadian Airborne Regiment in Somalia 1992 and that could have serious ramifications to German foreign policy in future.

  3. Brian Black says:

    A large chunk of the German public, and it’s political class is still very sensitive -perhaps overly sensitive- about any military deployment beyond Germany’s own borders.
    I’m sure there’ll be some strong words thrown about at home, and questions asked, but I can’t see this incident having a radical effect on Germany’s Afghan mission.

    The events concerning the Canadian Paras was a whole different kettle of fish. They beat and tortured people in their custody, possibly leading to some deaths. Undeniably, crimes were commited, and their own holiday snaps testify to that.

  4. Prestwick says:

    Germany has a problem. A big one. It wants to play a bigger role in international politics and it can’t stand France and others taking a lead in Europe.

    Yet it can’t bring itself to doing what needs to be done partly out of procrastination such as in Europe and partly because there are sections of Germany’s political class who are utterly opposed to any sea change in German foreign policy for ideological reasons.

    I say sections because as in the case of Gerhard Shroeder and the (now ruined) Zu Guttenberg there is a new generation of German politicians coming through who understand that Germany cannot depend on economic nous alone and thus will lose influence on the world stage.

    As for the Canadian Paras yes what some of them did was absolutely wrong and criminal but did it warrant the disbanding of the entire outfit which led to morale nosediving in the rest of the Canadian services?

    Thus my point was that just like how Somalia was the start of something very bad for Canada’s armed forces this scandal could trigger a bigger knee jerk response with what is already an unpopular war in Germany backed by an unpopular CDU government.

    We’re not talking about strong words or questions asked here but something approaching the last straw. There has already been huge controversy over the notorious Kunduz fuel tanker air strike that dragged on and on and resulted in numerous resignations.

  5. Brian Black says:

    I am surprised the Germans have managed to stay in Afghanistan for as long as they have. But I still think they want to play a role in Libya -perhaps not as directly and violently involved as the French and British- if only they could see clear momentum on the allied part. After all, that Franco-German fraternalism hasn’t gone away.

    Canada used the Somali affair as an opportunity to ditch an expensive, but rarely operationally used, airborne capability. A shameful episode in itself.

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