Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

International Engagement

Risky German Development Strategy

Willi Germund 2 min

On Christmas Eve, a German development consultant working on a road-building project was murdered in Kholm (also called Tashkurghan) in Northern Afghanistan. The Taleban claimed responsibility for the murder. The following commentary by Willi Germund, a German free-lance journalist frequently travelling to Afghanistan and Pakistan and also a frequent contributor for AAN, has kicked off a controversy in Germany. We add the reaction of the German Minister of Development and a letter to the editor by a German development worker.

The newly-built road between Mazar-e Sharif and Kunduz in Afghanistan’s North on which a German development worker died in a rain of bullets fired by the Taleban on Christmas Eve, had been a narrow, mine-affected dirt track for many years through a hostile desert. Its new development shortens the time for travelers between the two strategically important cities and constitutes an alternative route for the allies’ military supplies that rolls to Kabul coming from Tajikistan.

The new asphalt serves the country’s economic development – and makes the military’s activities easier at the same time. Most of the time, it is only possible to build such roads when the Taleban agree to it. If they don’t give green light, lethal incidents can happen. Therefore, it is likely that the Taleban shot at the vehicle that was carrying the employee of the German Kreditanstalt fuer Wiederaufbau (a state-owned development bank) because their okay for that construction project was missing.

His death sheds a strong light on a risky strategy, development minister Dirk Niebel has been following in the Hindukush after he took over his position at the beginning of the year. He insists on what he calls a close ‘coordination’ of development aid and the demands of the German Army, the Bundeswehr. Berlin shouldn’t therefore be surprised if the Taleban do not acknowledge the difference between soldiers and aid workers.

Willi Germund’s commentary was printed first in Berliner Zeitung on 27 December 2010. Its German original can be found here.

Germund’s opinion was supported by a reader’s comment to Berliner Zeitung’s website:

Dear Mr Germund,
many thanks for your article of today herzlichen Dank. I only can fully support you in what your writing. I am working in development aid myself and also have been travelling various times to Mazar-e Sharif and Kunduz during the past 14 months. I fullt share your assessment of the situation and wished your comment would also find readers in government.
Ralf Arning

Indeed, it did. Minister Niebel replied to the paper as follows:

‘The assumption that the road is solely built for military supplies is absurd. Rather, the extension of the road rectifies a central infrastructural bottle-neck […] for the people in the north of the country; it is not a military project’.


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