Germany in a War of Transformation

Security Politics and Military Policy during and after the Afghanistan Mission

(Last modified July 2010)

Germany’s involvement in the international intervention in Afghanistan—officially referred to as the International Security Assistance Force mission (ISAF) and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)—continues to highlight the structural problems that have plagued German security, defense, and foreign policy throughout the country’s transition from the old to the new Federal Republic.

This study centers on the backlash effects of the German mission in Afghanistan on problems in these key areas of policy-making. An adequate understanding of these effects can be reached only if we move beyond various assumptions about "asymmetric" warfare to examine this conflict as a "war of transformation". This latter concept reflects the realization that such missions aim, on the one hand, to bring about stability, societal restructuring, and state-building by military means, and, on the other, as a result of these actions in fact put pressure on the states sending troops to also undergo changes.

At the center of these problems lies the paradigm shift from a strategy defined by "defense" to one determined by the concept of "security". This shift, which has not only shaped developments in Germany, has led to

a) a loss of stability in the normative grammar of politics,

b) changes in the institutional architecture of politics, and

c) friction between the multinational actors involved.

Norms, justifications, procedures, and interactions have been swept up in the maelstrom created by this new constellation of problems.

The weakness in today’s normative grammar of politics becomes apparent when we consider the implications of Germany’s "extended" security concept (defending Germany in the Hindu Kush?), the conflict between the existential logic and the instrumental logic of "wars of choice" (dying for Kunduz?), and the structural dilemmas of external state-building processes (exporting democracy?).

Analysis of the shifts and tensions in the institutional architecture and in procedures addresses the interlinked political-military-civil arrangements that have been established to manage these missions (the primacy of politics?), the conflicting goals of "combating insurgency" and "reconstruction" (hearts and minds?), and the challenges to traditional military organizational structures (core operations or multi-tasking?).

Frictions between multinational groups of actors are examined by focusing on the operative problems of "coalition warfare" (synergy or reservations?), the relationship between alliance strategy and ultimate responsibility on the national level (the limits of alliance loyalty?), and the problems that arise between political, military, and civil groups or organizations of actors (primacy of the civil sector?).

The first part of this project is a micro-study that examines international experience with the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) in Afghanistan. This micro-study forms an introduction to the issues and problems outlined above and will focus on the German PRTs in Kunduz and Feysabad.