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Defense

A new age for German troops? From aid deliveries to combat missions

From Kosovo to Afghanistan, German military deployments overseas have been the subject of much discussion. An unthinkable concept after World War Two, it's now become a reality.

The redevelopment of the German military after the end of the Nazi regime began in 1955/56, after the federal republic joined NATO. At the time, the return to arms was a highly controversial decision.

1955-1989: The German Army: for aid and self defense

Germany's first foreign deployment took soldiers to Morocco. In 1960, the military flew aid parcels to Agadir, where a severe earthquake had killed thousands. Further aid ventures followed in Iran and Italy.

Due to the Cold War, the German military was quickly being rearmed by its Western allies. Nevertheless, the country was only to use the weapons to defend itself or its allies. Any other armed involvement in a conflict was unthinkable.

1990: The Second Gulf War: allies expect more

After the Cold War and Germany's reunification, Germany's allies expected the country to take on more military responsibility, particularly outside the limitations of the NATO alliance. The German Army was no longer to be an army of defense but was now expected to be actively involved in military missions. During the Second Gulf War in 1990/91, German troops were needed in the crisis zone. The German Army participated but didn't end up fighting. To protect Turkey, a fellow NATO partner, Germany offered boats and planes - measures the government called "humanitarian aid."

1992-1994: Cambodia, Somalia, Rwanda: more humanitarian aid

More missions followed: After the end of the Cambodian civil war, the Bundeswehr sent 150 medics to help with a UN peacekeeping mission. According to the German Army that was the first time a number of troops of a "significant size was deployed abroad." Some 2,500 soldiers were involved in providing logistical support in 1992/93 in Somalia. In 1994, in Rwanda, the Bundeswehr conducted an airlift to get supplies to refugees.

1992 - 1995: Bosnian-War: an era of "military involvement"

Deutschland Geschichte Kapitel 6 1999 – 2009 Kosovo Krieg Tornado Jagdbomber

Deployment without a UN mandate: Germany's troops in Kosovo

From 1992, Germany was involved in more international missions, including the Bosnian war. These missions included "Sharp Guard" and "Deny Flight," supervising embargos on trade and weapons sales to what was then the republic of Yugoslavia. It also took part in enforcing the no-fly zone over Bosnia.

This was the first foreign armed involvement of the German Army since the Second World War. For many in Germany, this heralded a new era of "military involvement."

The missions sparked a large political and social debate in Germany. The Federal Constitutional Court declared on July 12, 1992, that German armed forces could take part in UN and NATO missions, but only after receiving a parliamentary mandate.

1999: War in Kosovo: Bundeswehr's first combat missions

An even large debate broke out later when the German Army was involved in the "Allied Force" NATO operation. The Bundeswehr was asked to protect the people of Kosovo from troops deployed by Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic. NATO deployed an air attack, and Germany contributed 14 planes.

Participation in the war in Kosovo brought the Bundeswehr to unfamiliar territory: For the first time since the end of the Second World War, German soldiers were actively involved in combat - in a controversial war and without a UN mandate. Critics saw "Allied Force" as an unconstitutional war of aggression, and as a blatant contradiction to one of former German Chancellor Willy Brandt's mantras: "No more war from German soil." The governing coalition of Social Democrats and Green labeled the mission a "humanitarian intervention."

2001: Afghanistan: the war on terror

Afghanistan Bombenangriff Bundeswehr Tanklaster Zivilisten

Largest number of victims in a German attack: Klein's orders in war against terror

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, NATO implemented the mutual defense clause for the first time in its history. The Bundeswehr took part in the "war against terror." In December 2001, the parliament approved participation in the ware in Afghanistan. German troops were permitted to be a part of the ISAF troops under the guidance of NATO, which were supposed to be involved in Afghan redevelopment after the war. The discussions about Germany's involvement raged on, and brought the then Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to a vote of confidence and nearly cost him his position - a position he claimed in part due to his opposition to the US war in Iraq. Germany's government justified their involvement by stating that a safer Afghanistan, one that wasn't under the threat of terrorism, also meant a safer Germany.

Currently there are 1,800 German soldiers in Afghanistan - 54 have been killed since the beginning of the ISAF mission. Under the orders of German Colonel Georg Klein, two Taliban-hijacked fuel trucks were bombed on September 4, 2009. Over 100 people lost their lives in the attack and it remains the largest number of victims involved in a German military mission. The ISAF mission will run until 2014.

2014: Delivery of arms to Iraq: what's the role of parliament?

Germany is currently debating the planned delivery of arms to the Iraqi army and Kurds in Iraq. The German government wants to support Kurds in their battle against the "IS" terrorists. Some politicians and observers regard sending weapons into an ongoing conflict zone as a taboo and the government's decision as a break with long-standing German foreign policy. Many ask whether parliamentary approval should be necessary before providing arms is permitted as it is before Bundeswehr troops can be deployed.

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