Development News from Afghanistan

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For us ze war is over by tea time, ja

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Jerome Starkey
The Sunday Times (UK)
November 18, 2007

THEY are on the front line of the war on terror, but German pilots facing the Taliban are insisting they stop at tea time every day to comply with health and safety regulations.

The helicopter pilots, who provide medical back-up to Nato ground troops, set off for their base by mid-afternoon so they can be grounded by sundown.

Their refusal to fly in the dark is hampering Operation Desert Eagle, an allied offensive, which involves 500 Nato-led troops plus 1,000 Afghan troops and police.

Although Germany has sent 3,200 troops to Afghanistan, they operate under restrictive rules of engagement.

They spend much of their time in an enormous base, complete with beer halls and nightclubs, in Mazar-e-Sharif, a 90-minute flight from the fighting. They also have a base at Kunduz.

Germany, which has lost 25 soldiers in Afghanistan to suicide attacks and roadside bombs, commands the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the north. But its men are not allowed to travel more than two hours from a “role two medical facility” – a hospital equipped for emergency surgery.

The restrictions have fuelled tensions among allied troops. Norwegian soldiers, who were fighting to stem a growing Taliban insurgency in this remote stretch of Afghanistan’s northwest frontier, were forced to desert their Afghan comrades midway through a firefight when German medical evacuation helicopters withdrew.

The Germans contribute unmanned surveillance planes, an electronic warfare team and a hospital to the operation.

One Norwegian cavalry officer, who was engaged in a day-long fight with more than 40 Taliban near Jari Siya in Badghis, said: “It’s hopeless. We were attacking the bad guys, then [at] three or four o’clock, the helicopters are leaving.

“We had to go back to base. We should have had Norwegian helicopters. At least they can fly at night.”

Abandoned by their western allies, the 600 men from the Afghan army’s 209 Corps were forced to retreat until a convoy of American Humvees arrived the next day to reinforce them.

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Written by afghandevnews

November 18, 2007 at 4:40 pm

Posted in Security

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