alerts to U.S. citizens in Europe came amid warnings that young German men were
among the would-be jihadists seeking to join terrorist groups along the
Afghan-Pakistan border. According to the scant information publicly available,
one of these men has returned to Hamburg
in the meantime. There he has associated with individuals linked to one of the
9/11 hijackers. Another 15 to 20 young people supposedly left Afghanistan for Europe as well with the
intention of staging Mumbai-style attacks in the UK,
France, and Germany. While
the border area seems to attract mostly misfits and malcontents, who enjoy
playing the role of amateur terrorists, the German Foreign Intelligence Service
(Bundesnachrichtendienst, BND) is taking the warnings seriously. Observers fear
that there may not be very much professionalism necessary for staging a
A number of young German men from Berlin in particular are reported to have been killed in their endeavors to join the Afghan jihad in recent weeks. One of their comrades is supposedly now unaccounted for and may have returned to Germany in search of a target for an attack (Spiegel). However, security considerations necessitate that much of the information remains obscure or "abstract," as the German Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, puts it. At this moment he sees no reason for increased vigilance in Germany, despite terror warnings circulated in the American and British media. The BND had long been aware of the relevant information and had not judged it necessary to alert the public (Tagesschau). The U.S. National Security Advisor, James Jones, also pointed out that no specific targets were known to the Western intelligence community, despite media reports to the contrary (Handelsblatt).
Indeed, the German Minister of the Interior, Thomas de Maizière, has warned of scaremongering in this context. He claims that it has been more than a year now since intelligence services had already informed him of the terrorists' plans, which have now surfaced in the media reports. Berlin's Senator (=Minister) of the Interior, Ehrhart Koerting, agreed with the Interior Minister on the matter. Moreover, international travelers do not appear unduly unsettled by the reports. No cancellations by business travelers or tourists to Berlin have been noted to date (Focus). Unnamed German experts are reported to suspect that the threats against Germany, as reported on by the U.S. Fox news channel, were intended to exert pressure on the Obama Administration. Some U.S. observers feel that Washington does not take the terrorist threat serious enough anymore (Tagesspiegel).
Even if the situation remains relatively calm in Germany, an escalation of violence has recently been noted in the northern part of Afghanistan - the area secured by German forces. An ambush in early October left one German soldier dead and six injured. The Minister of Defense, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, continued to defend the mission as essential to the national security of Germany (Welt).
In the first week of October, the Governor of the Afghan Kunduz province, Mohammad Omar, was killed as a result of a suicide attack during Friday prayers. Since German troops in Afghanistan are mainly located in this region, this news contributed to a sense of foreboding in Germany. The Minister of Defense seized the occasion to point out that Germans should be realistic about which goals can be accomplished in Afghanistan. The Foreign Minister meanwhile expressed his condolences to the Governor's family and the people of Afghanistan. He emphasized that the murder of the Governor represented an attack on everything which Germany was striving to achieve in Afghanistan, namely, a safe, sovereign and secure state. He assured the Afghans that Germany would not forsake this aspiration even when faced with brutal acts of violence (Deutsche Welle). The repercussions of these events on the planned withdrawal of German troops from Afghanistan next year remain to be seen.
Photo Licence: CC-BY-SA Bundeswehr-Fotos