German Advisers Train Kurdish Troops With Battle Rifles
Berlin’s weapons start arriving near the front line against Islamic State
Last August, Germany pledged weapons to Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State. It looks like Berlin made good on its promise.
A small arms batch consisting of G36 and G3 rifles has filtered to the front lines, with Kurdish forces using them around Shingal and Sinjar. Photos released by the Kurdistan Regional Government in February show Bundeswehr advisers instructing Kurdish forces how to use the weapons.
Germany also supplied MILAN anti-tank guided missiles and Panzerfaust 3 rockets. We discussed the German weapons deployments last November. As suspected, the missiles proved their effectiveness against armored vehicles during the ongoing campaign around Mosul and Kirkuk.
There have been no reports about a combat deployment of the Panzerfaust 3, but the closest and most recent evidence are pictures of Kurdish troops inspecting the weapons.
In Germany, the government agreed to step up its aid to the Kurds. On Jan. 29, the German parliament agreed to set up a training mission consisting of—at maximum—100 instructors who will assist Kurdish troops in the region until Jan. 31, 2016.
To be sure, the German troops can defend themselves, but will not directly involve themselves in combat. The advisers’ operational tasks include training and coordinating with allies based at command centers in Iraq and Kuwait.
There’s more weapons on the way. On Feb. 6, the German ministry of defense released a list of materials it intends to hand over to the Peshmerga. This include 30 MILAN anti-tank guided missile launchers with 500 missiles, 200 Panzerfaust 3s with 2,400 anti-tank rockets and more small arms with 7.62 x 51 and 5.56 x 45-caliber ammunition.
The German government’s mandate itself is vague, stating weapons shipments are dependent on demand and the “continuation of support for the security forces.” This means it’s up to Berlin to decide what’s needed. The current flow of weapons will continue until late February, according to German minister of defense Ursula Von Der Leyen.
Then there’s the complicated legal justifications. The mandate required a legal framework to pass through parliament—which was desperately needed after previous weapons deployments. This legal definition came together with the mandate in mid-December.
“The mission is taking place in a system of collective security and is therefore conforming to the constitution,” Von Der Leyen said.
Germany can get involved in military actions as part of official NATO or United Nations-sanctioned “collective security” missions. But is there an international mandate for Kurdistan?
Well, not exactly.
But this falls short of a formal international resolution authorizing Operation Inherent Resolve—the U.S.-led “coalition of the willing” against Islamic State. The legal framework was flimsy enough for the parliament’s Department of Research Services to dispute its basis under the constitution.
At least on a semantic level, Berlin’s governing coalition avoided officially mentioning or referencing the U.S.-operation. This new legal interpretation was enough for the resolution to pass parliament.
So the German weapons and trainers are on their way—with a mandate for at least one year. What will happen next is hidden in the fog of war.