Mainz, Germany – On Thursday morning the first German military contingent left for Turkey to make first arrangements for the German Syria-mission. 40 soldiers, two Tornado jets and one air-to-air tanker aircraft were included in the departure, with more personnel on the way.
After Legislators in Germany’s Parliament, the Bundestag, decided last week on sending up to 1,200 Bundeswehr soldiers to the Middle East to join the anti-ISIS campaign in Syria, first troops started their flight to the region from the Jagel airbase in the state of Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany.
"We are aware of the risks and have adjusted pilots' training accordingly; We are prepared," said Lieutenant Colonel Jörg Langer to German public broadcaster ZDF, adding that the jets were equipped to defend themselves if necessary.
The operation, in support of France, comes in the wake of the deadly Paris attacks in November. Following the attacks, chancellor Merkel agreed to honor a request from France to provide support for its operations against Isis in Syria. However, before that, German soldiers have been training Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers against the Islamic State for more than a year now.
Schleswig-Holstein's Minister-President Torsten Albig said at the send-off ceremony that “the future of Europe depends on this friendship,” underlining the importance of the longstanding French-German partnership.
The German navy has also deployed a frigate, to the region to support the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle. The Augsburg, carrying some 230 sailors and soldiers, began accompanying the French aircraft carrier on its journey through the Suez Canal to the Arabian Sea. From there, France aims to carry out further airstrikes against the terrorists.
Some are even calling for German boots on the ground, at least with the Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK), German special forces, who should be deployed, if a jet gets shot down and the pilot has to be rescued.
"The Bundeswehr successfully carried out these kinds of rescue operations in Afghanistan,” former Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung was cited by Spiegel Online, adding that the German troops can “handle that” themselves and do not rely on any other forces.
German forces in the Kurdistan Region have not just trained the Kurdish forces, they also had some short appearances at the frontlines. In September Corduene learned that German intelligence was helping Peshmerga forces on the ground, who were attacked with mustard gas by the Islamic State. Several injured Peshmerga soldiers were then recovered from the frontlines by German intelligence.
There are also some in the German parliament, like the leftist party Die Linke, who oppose the deployment of soldiers to the region. Norman Paech, member of Die Linke and former MP says: “The legal justification relied on by the German government for the deployment of German military forces to Syria is unsustainable. International law insists as always that a state can only be attacked if the terrorist attacks emanating from its territory can be attributed to it.”
However, Germany neither attacks the Syrian government nor ISIS itself. Its military just provides reconnaissance, security and training for its allies in the anti-ISIS coalition. The Central-European power was one of the first to provide Kurdish forces with weaponry and logistics. Last week the defense ministry also confirmed that “upcoming supplies to the Peshmerga will definitely include more MILAN rockets,” after several reports suggested otherwise.