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Germany Dissolves Elite Army Unit Over Far-right Activity

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Germany’s protection ministry formally disbanded an organization of its Special Forces Command (KSK) on Saturday, following studies that it had been uncovered to far-right and neo-Nazi ideology.

The transfer confirmed how deeply rooted right-wing extremism could possibly be throughout the German military, some consultants mentioned.

“The announcement basically acknowledges for the first time that it is not just individual cases in which soldiers show up as right-wing extremists, but that there are right-wing extremist networks in the German Federal Armed Forces,” mentioned Fabian Virchow, a professor on the University of Applied Sciences Düsseldorf and director of the Research Unit on Right Wing Extremism.

“It shows that this danger has been systematically underestimated in the past by political and military leaders,” Virchow instructed VOA.

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer made the preliminary announcement of disbanding the KSK’s 2nd Company July 1 after an investigation into allegations of right-wing exercise.

Kramp-Karrenbauer mentioned then that the investigation had revealed the KSK was constructing a “wall of secrecy” round itself with a “toxic leadership culture.”

FILE – German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer arrives at a information convention on German armed forces Bundeswehr Special Forces Command (KSK) in Berlin, July 1, 2020.

The protection ministry instructed VOA in an announcement that it was doing its finest to stop far-right extremists from penetrating the German armed forces, or Bundeswehr, and to take away them as soon as they’ve been recognized.

“Extremism of any kind, whether right wing, left wing or Islamist, has no place in the Bundeswehr, with its more than 250,000 soldiers, civil servants and civilian workers,” a protection ministry spokesman instructed VOA.

He mentioned the nation’s Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD) was engaged on about 600 suspected circumstances of right-wing extremism, together with 20 suspected circumstances pertaining to the KSK.

Reform calls

During the July 1 announcement, Kramp-Karrenbauer mentioned that the evaluation of the KSK far-right incidents concluded that the unit have to be modified from “the inside out” and that it have to be higher reintegrated into the Bundeswehr.

“We will give the KSK time to press the reset button,” she added, giving the unit an October deadline to make reforms or be dismantled.

Her name for reform got here a couple of weeks after a whistleblower throughout the KSK addressed a 12-page letter to her. The whistleblower alleged that right-wing extremism throughout the unit was identified internally and “collectively ignored or even tolerated.”

In January, the MAD counterintelligence unit reportedly mentioned about 500 troopers within the army had been beneath investigation on suspicion of right-wing extremism.

In March, MAD mentioned the variety of suspected circumstances of extremism throughout the military had risen considerably in 2019, in its first report on the problem.

KSK operations

The KSK was established in 1996 to deal with particular operations, together with counterterrorism, hostage rescue and intelligence gathering. It at the moment numbers round 1,100.

Its well-equipped members have reportedly served in quite a few operations in Europe and elsewhere, together with Afghanistan, Mali, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo.

The KSK is thought to be probably the most secret, elite unit of the German military, with its operations very not often revealed to the general public.

According to Virchow of the University of Applied Sciences Düsseldorf, the secrecy makes it onerous to know whether it is price having such a unit, including that “it is unlikely that the KSK will be disbanded as a whole.”

Before the KSK, there have been a number of particular items inside German regulation enforcement, together with a particular police unit referred to as GSG 9, and the army, together with the navy’s Kampfschwimmer. However, the forces’ operations remained restricted, with no main worldwide operations. KSK, alternatively, has been concerned in abroad operations as nicely.

Some consultants cost that the KSK’s earlier involvement in key worldwide operations means the unit will seemingly proceed to function sooner or later, no matter threats relating to its disbandment.

“If Germany … will continue to take part in the U.N. or NATO missions that involve actual fighting, you need a special forces unit,” Hans-Jakob Schindler, senior director of the Counter Extremism Project in Berlin, instructed VOA.

“Disbanding the whole KSK would mean that Germany’s ability to partake in international missions is severely hampered, because you just cannot be in Mali without the KSK,” Schindler added.

Conscription

In addition to measures to reform the KSK, German officers in latest months have additionally debated whether or not to convey again obligatory army service as a technique to fight right-wing extremism within the German military ranks.

One of the concept’s supporters, Eva Högl, the German parliament’s Bundeswehr overseer, argues that conscription may make it a lot more durable for far-right extremists to ascertain a base of affect within the military.

“It would do the military good if a big a part of society does its service for some time,” Högl instructed newspapers of the Funke Media Group final month.

FILE – German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for the weekly cupboard assembly in Berlin, July 15, 2020.

However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Kramp-Karrenbauer are usually not in favor of reintroducing conscription to the military.

Germany suspended conscription in 2011, but it surely nonetheless has volunteer service alongside its skilled military members.

Kramp-Karrenbauer final Thursday introduced that the German military would launch a brand new volunteer scheme for the military with the motto of “Your year for Germany” in April 2021. The program reportedly will deal with homeland safety.

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