Wednesday, November 28, 2007

While we're on the subject

of Western militaries, helos, and the lack thereof, let's talk about the Germans:
The German army has refuted accusations its helicopters left Norwegian and Afghan troops alone in a battle in order to make it to home base before dusk, but the incident still underscores how unhappy some NATO officials are with the Germans in Afghanistan.

"For us ze war is over by teatime, ja," ran the headline in the Nov. 18 edition of the (London) Sunday Times. The British weekly accused the Germans of having abandoned their NATO allies in an offensive against the Taliban. Apparently, Bundeswehr medical evacuation helicopters pulled out in the middle of the battle because they needed to be back on home base by sundown. The other NATO forces were thus forced to retreat as well, the newspaper said.

"We were attacking the bad guys, then at three or four o'clock the helicopters are leaving," a Norwegian officer told the Sunday Times. "We had to go back to base. We should have had Norwegian helicopters. At least they can fly at night."

He sounds pissed. Rightfully so, it appears:

The article said the German unwillingness to fly at night is undermining Operation Desert Eagle, an allied offensive directed at the Taliban involving 500 NATO troops plus 1,000 Afghan soldiers and police. The Germans are not allowed to travel more than two hours from a hospital equipped for emergency surgery -- another issue that has fueled tensions between Germany and its NATO allies, who are angry that Bundeswehr troops keep away from the intense battles.

"(The Germans) spend much of their time in an enormous base, complete with beer halls and nightclubs, in Mazar-i-Sharif, a 90-minute flight from the fighting," the article said.

There is the official line:

"There is no ban on night flights," a German armed forces spokesman told the online version of German news magazine Der Spiegel.

Weather conditions could potentially limit the flight of German helicopters, the spokesman said, "but then it's not just us -- the others don't fly either." He added that no official complaint was filed from the Norwegians, and even the Scandinavians seem to doubt that things happened as described in the Sunday Times.

Lt. Col. John Inge Oeglaend of the Norwegian Joint Headquarters told Spiegel Online he has heard nothing concrete of the incident, adding the mission was not abruptly ended. "I have no idea how the officer on the battlefield came to such a conclusion," Oeglaend said.

Of course, you'll notice no one is disputing the medical requirement, possibly the most asinine part of the entire article. I hate to be the one to break it to the Germans, but everything that is technically possible in war is not always realistically feasible. I'm sure we would love it if we could have a trauma surgeon follow every patrol in Iraq or Afghanistan, but that would kind of get in the way of the whole killing bad guys thing. Which is why we're there. You, maybe not so much..."
complete with beer halls and nightclubs, in Mazar-i-Sharif...".

Here's the crux of the matter:

While the renewed official German backing for OEF has soothed Washington, the country has in the past repeatedly come under fire for confining its troops to the northern provinces, where the number of roadside bombs and suicide attacks has increased, but where safety generally can be ensured. This is not the case in the southern provinces, where Germans have refused to go and where NATO forces are taking heavy fire from Taliban rebels.

Either you're in NATO and you're at war, or you're not and you aren't. You can't have it both ways.

Hard to believe that an entire continent once trembled at the thought of these guys...