Friday, April 23, 2010

Merkel defends Germany's Afghanistan mandate

According to , Chancellor Angela Merkel defended Germany's military presence in Afghanistan on Thursday - rejecting opposition claims that the country was now involved in a level of warfare that parliament had not agreed to.

Merkel's address to parliament followed the recent deaths of seven German soldiers in two insurgent attacks in northern Afghanistan, prompting renewed soul-searching in a country where the military mission is already deeply unpopular.

'This mandate is valid, over and above any sensible doubt under international or constitutional law,' Merkel said in an address to the Bundestag, or parliament.

The chancellor said she understood those who referred to the conflict as 'war' but added that the parliament had been fully aware of conditions in Afghanistan when they agreed to extend the military mandate earlier this year.

'We can't expect bravery from our soldiers, if we lack the courage to stand up for what we agreed to,' the chancellor added.

Merkel and Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, both of the ruling Christian Democrats (CDU), have raised legal questions in recent months by acknowledging that the armed conflict in Afghanistan could be described as 'war' in common parlance.

As a result, opposition leader Sigmar Gabriel of the Social Democrats (SDP) has questioned the validity of the current mandate, which authorizes the German military to take part in 'armed conflict' in the region.

The government would legally have to seek renewed parliamentary approval for a mandate to wage war in Afghanistan.

War is legally defined as a conflict between states, which does not aptly describe the conflict that Germany is engaged in under the NATO umbrella.

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