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THIS IS HOW THEY TITLED THIS? …. Germany’s Leopard 2 Tank Was Considered One of the Best — Until It Went to Syria

Hallo und guten Tag,

Generally we do not keep up with other countries military developments, but we stumbled on this article many months after it was written and poorly titled.

The Leopard 2A4 is an older version that is not built for counter-insurgency attacks. They are the last of the Cold War era panzers built for tank on tank and offensive operations in which the article also states.

The other main factor is how the Turkish military is using them. Leaving single panzers without infantry support is not the purpose of these vehicles. These are long range hunters, not for close encounters against infantry/insurgents or built for protection against IEDS. In Afghanistan, the Danish 2A5s and Canadian 2A6s have performed very well. Ones knocked out by IEDS are put back into service.

In German hands, this panzer is the world’s best or second to the American Abrams. With the next generation of 2A7V models, these will be built to survive counter-insurgency and more. At the 2016 and 2018 Strong Europe Tank Challenge, Germany took first in the competition. In 2017, Germany came in 2nd to Austria which also used the Leopard. The Abrams came in 5th, 3rd, and 7th from 2016 to 2018. During the Iraq campaign, Americans Abrams tanks were lost in battle. The Iraqi army has fared even worse against ISIS with many of their Abrams being knocked out.

Training is key. German crews train and train on their machines. The Wehrmacht in World War 2 was also quiet efficient with their panzers not due to big guns and armor, but training and tactics. This article should be titled: ‘ Turks Use the Leopard with Poor Tactics and Are Crushed.’ 

We will let you now read the original article.

Danke,

HWB von Richter

Germany’s Leopard 2 Tank Was Considered One of the Best — Until It Went to Syria

January 30, 2018 by Sebastien Roblin

Germany’s Leopard 2 main battle tank has a reputation as one of the finest in the world, competing for that distinction with proven designs such as the American M-1 Abrams and the British Challenger 2. However, that reputation for nigh-invincibility has faced setbacks on Syrian battlefields, and placed Berlin in a uniquely awkward national-level dispute with Turkey, its fellow NATO member.

Ankara had offered to release a German political prisoner in exchange for Germany upgrading the Turkish army’s older-model Leopard 2A4 tank, which had proven embarrassingly vulnerable in combat. On Jan. 24, public outrage over reports that Turkey was using its Leopard 2s to kill Kurdish fighters in the Syrian enclaves of Afrin and Manbij forced Berlin to freeze the hostage-for-tanks deal.

The Leopard 2 is often compared to its near contemporary, the M-1 Abrams. In truth, the two designs share broadly similar characteristics, including a scale-tipping weight of well over 60 tons of advanced composite armor, 1,500 horsepower engines allowing speeds over 40 miles per hour and, for certain models, the same 44-caliber 120-millimeter main gun produced by Rheinmetall.

Both types can easily destroy most Russian-built tanks at medium and long ranges, at which they are unlikely to be penetrated by return fire from standard 125-millimeter guns.

Furthermore, they have better sights with superior thermal imagers and magnification, that make them more likely to detect and hit the enemy first — historically, an even greater determinant of the victor in armored warfare than sheer firepower. A Greek trial found that moving Leopard 2s and Abramses hit a 2.3-meter target 19 and 20 times out of 20, respectively, while a Soviet T-80 scored only 11 hits.

The modest differences between the two Western tanks reveal different national philosophies.

The Abrams has a noisy 1,500-horsepower gas-guzzling turbine, which starts up more rapidly, while the Leopard 2’s diesel motor grants it greater range before refueling. The Abrams has achieved some of its extraordinary offensive and defensive capabilities through use of depleted uranium ammunition and armor packages — technologies politically unacceptable to the Germans.

Therefore, later models of the Leopard 2A6 now mount a higher-velocity 55-caliber gun to make up the difference in penetrating power, while the 2A5 Leopard introduced an extra wedge of spaced armor on the turret to better absorb enemy fire.

German scruples also extend to arms exports, with Berlin imposing more extensive restrictions on which countries it is willing to sell weapons to — at least in comparison to France, the United States or Russia. While the Leopard 2 is in service with 18 countries, including many NATO members, a lucrative Saudi bid for between 400 and 800 Leopard 2s was rejected by Berlin because of the Middle Eastern country’s human-rights records, and its bloody war in Yemen in particular.

The Saudis instead ordered additional Abramses to their fleet of around 400.

This bring us to Turkey, a NATO country with which Berlin has important historical and economic ties, but which also has had bouts of military government and waged a counter-insurgency campaign against Kurdish separatists for decades. In the early 2000s, under a more favorable political climate, Berlin sold 354 of its retired Leopard 2A4 tanks to Ankara.

These represented a major upgrade over the less well protected M-60 Patton tanks that make up the bulk of Turkey’s armored forces.

However, the rumor has long persisted that Berlin agreed to the sale under the condition that the German tanks not be used in Turkey’s counter-insurgency operations against the Kurds. Whether such an understanding ever existed is hotly contested, but the fact remains that the Leopard 2 was kept well away from the Kurdish conflict and instead deployed in northern Turkey, opposite Russia.

In the fall of 2016, Turkish Leopard 2s of the Second Armored Brigade finally deployed to the Syrian border to support Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkey’s intervention against Islamic State. Prior to the Leopard’s arrival, around a dozen Turkish Patton tanks were destroyed by both ISIS and Kurdish missiles. Turkish defense commentators expressed the hope that the tougher Leopard would fare better.

The 2A4 model was the last of the Cold War – era Leopard 2s, which were designed to fight in relatively concentrated units in a fast-paced defensive war against Soviet tank columns, not to survive improvised explosive devices and missiles fired by ambushing insurgents in long-term counter-insurgency campaigns where every single loss was a political issue.

The 2A4 retains an older boxy turret configurations which affords less protection from modern anti-tank missiles, especially to the generally more vulnerable rear and side armor, which is a bigger problem in a counter-insurgency environment, where an attack may come from any direction.

This was shockingly illustrated in December 2016 when evidence emerged that numerous Leopard 2s had been destroyed in intense fighting over Islamic State-held Al Bab — a fight that Turkish military leaders described as a “trauma,” according to Der Spiegel. A document published online listed Islamic State as apparently having destroyed 10 of the supposedly invincible Leopard 2s — five reportedly by anti-tank missiles, two by mines or IEDs, one to rocket or mortar fire, and the others to more ambiguous causes.

These photos analyzed by Bellingcat confirm the destruction of at least eight. One shows a Leopard 2 apparently knocked out by a suicide VBIED — an armored kamikaze truck packed with explosives. Another had its turret blown clean off. Three Leopard wrecks can be seen around the same hospital near Al Bab, along with several other Turkish armored vehicles.

It appears the vehicles were mostly struck the more lightly protected belly and side armor by IEDs and AT-7 Metis and AT-5 Konkurs anti-tank missiles. Undoubtedly, the manner in which the Turkish Army employed the German tanks likely contributed to the losses.

Rather than using them in a combined arms force alongside mutually supporting infantry, they were deployed to the rear as long-range fire-support weapons while Turkish-allied Syrian militias stiffened with Turkish special forces led the assaults. Isolated on exposed firing positions without adequate nearby infantry to form a good defensive perimeter, the Turkish Leopards were vulnerable to ambushes.

The same poor tactics have led to the loss of numerous Saudi Abrams tanks in Yemen.

By contrast, more modern Leopard 2s have seen quite a bit of action in Afghanistan combating Taliban insurgents in the service of the Canadian 2A6Ms — with enhanced protection against mines and even floating “safety seats” — and Danish 2A5s. Though a few were damaged by mines, all were put back into service, though a Danish Leopard 2 crew member was mortally injured by an IED attack in 2008.

In return, field commanders praised the tanks for their mobility and for providing accurate and timely fire support during major combat operations in southern Afghanistan.

In 2017, Germany began rebuilding its tank fleet, building an even beefier Leopard 2A7V model more likely to survive in a counter-insurgency environment. Now Ankara is pressing Berlin to upgrade the defense on its Leopard 2 tanks, especially as the domestically produced Altay tank has been repeatedly delayed.

The Turkish military not only wants additional belly armor to protect against IEDs, but the addition of an Active Protection System, or APS, that can detect incoming missiles and their point of origin, and jam or even shoot them down. The U.S. Army recently authorized the installation of Israeli Trophy APS on a brigade of M-1 Abrams tanks, a type that has proven effective in combat.

Meanwhile, Leopard 2 manufacturer Rheinmetall has unveiled its own ADATS APS, which supposedly poses a lesser risk of harming friendly troops with its defensive countermeasure missiles.

However, German-Turkish relations deteriorated sharply, especially after Erdogan initiated a prolonged crackdown on thousands of supposed conspirators after a failed military coup attempt in August 2016. In February 2017, Turkish authorities arrested German-Turkish dual-citizen Deniz Yücel, a correspondent for periodical Die Welt, ostensibly for being a pro-Kurdish spy. His detention caused outrage in Germany.

Ankara pointedly let it be known that if a Leopard 2 upgrade were allowed to proceed, Yücel would be released back to Germany. Though Berlin publicly insisted it would never agree to such a quid pro quo, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel quietly began moving towards authorizing the upgrade in a bid to improve relations in the face of what looks suspiciously like tank-based blackmail. Gabriel presented the deal as a measure to protect Turkish soldiers’ lives from Islamic State.

However, in mid-January 2018, Turkey launched an offensive against the Kurdish enclaves of Afrin and Manbij in northwestern Syria. The attack was precipitated generally by Turkish fears that effective Kurdish control of the Syrian border would lead to a de facto state that would expand into Turkish territory, and proximately by an announcement by the Pentagon that it was recruiting the Kurds to form a “border security force” to continue the fight against Islamic State.

Photos on social media soon emerged showing that Leopard 2 tanks were being employed to blast Kurdish positions in Afrin, where there have several dozen civilian casualties have been reported. Furthermore, on Jan. 21, the Kurdish YPG published a YouTube video showing a Konkurs anti-tank missile striking a Turkish Leopard 2.

It is not possible to tell if the tank was knocked out; the missile may have struck the Leopard 2’s front armor, which is rated as equivalent to 590 to 690 millimeters of rolled homogenous armor on the 2A4, while the two types of Konkurs missiles can penetrate 600 or 800 millimeters of RHA.

In any event, parliamentarians both from German left-wing parties and Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union reacted with outrage, with a member of the latter describing the Turkish offensive as a violation of international law. On Jan. 25, the Merkel administration was forced to announce that an upgrade to the Leopard 2 was off the table, at least for now.

Ankara views the deal as merely postponed, and cagey rhetoric from Berlin suggests it may return to the deal at a more politically opportune time.

This article originally appeared at The National Interest.

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Congratulations from the Historical Society to the British Royal Couple of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Newlyweds Prince Harry and Meghan usher in a new era for British royalty.

Windsor, England (CNN)The masses roared, as they always do on such occasions, and under a cloudless English sky in the historic town of Windsor, there was a new beginning.

It was a royal wedding like no other; a gospel choir sang, Dr. Martin Luther King was quoted in a rousing address and a young couple was united in a marriage that will change a venerable institution forever.

Greeted by cheering crowds, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex emerged from St. George’s Chapel and kissed on the steps as the sun shone down.

The marriage of the sixth in line to the throne to Meghan Markle, a biracial American, saw the British monarchy transform into something more representative of its people than it has been before.

On the cobbled streets of Windsor, among the snaking river of people who turned out to celebrate, there was a sense from many that the newest member of the royal family had reinvigorated “The Firm.”

“It’s good there’s diversity in the royal family, it means a lot,” said Abha Trivedi, a Californian who had relocated to London two weeks ago and slept overnight on a chair for a prime spot of the royal procession.

Daljit Sidhu, of South Asian heritage but from Langley near Windsor, echoed such sentiments.

“As Asians it’s important,” the 41-year-old said. “I was born and bred here, but you were always different. Ten years ago you wouldn’t have thought this would happen.”

The Duke of Sussex and the Duchess of Sussex were greeted by a ripple of applause.
Pageantry with majesty

Much has been spoken and written about of the newest member of royal family shaking up the establishment.But for all that was different about this royal wedding there was still the pomp and circumstance of old royalty.

It was an impeccably choreographed wedding. A marching band paraded through the streets, aristocrats arrived and departed in supersized hats. Overseeing the service was the Archbishop of Canterbury.

No one does pageantry with the majesty of the British. It comes by virtue of hundreds of years of practice.

Some of those who headed to Windsor hailed a new age of diversity in the British royal family.

An estimated 100,000 had descended on this picturesque town 20 miles west of London on a glorious spring day to witness a wedding that has charmed not only the inhabitants of the UK but millions around the world.

From Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to Ghana, the United States, Switzerland and Australia, thousands were captivated by tradition and glamor.

They lined the cobbled streets, snacked on sandwiches drank Pimm’s and waited and waited — and waited — for a chance to say “I was there.”

There was joy, giddiness and much affection for the couple, now one of the world’s most powerful and influential pairings. In this part of England, for Saturday at least, everyone was a royalist and romantic.

Seventy-three-year-old Australian Carleen Quirk had been sleeping on the streets of Windsor for two nights to ensure she was in prime position to witness her eighth royal wedding.

Why does the British monarchy seduce and enchant so many? “Having a royal family as head of a country is stabilizing,” explained Quirk. “And Meghan is a breath of fresh air.”

For Histria Soler, from the Dominican Republic but in London visiting friends, it was an opportunity to experience something usually seen in Disney movies. “It’s not often that you see a prince get married,” she said. “She was just a normal girl.”

Britain’s Prince Harry and his best man Prince William wore military dress uniforms.
Love and Britishness

Prince Harry and William are also, of course, the sons of Princess Diana and much interest in them stems from memories of her, a woman loved by the people, but whose own fairytale wedding ended in divorce.Though living extraordinary unusual and privileged lives, it is the brothers’ ability to appear as regular men which has helped the family overcome the tumultuous final decades of the last century.

Images of the young princes walking solemnly behind their mother’s coffin remain strongly etched in the memory, so there has always been much goodwill for the boys who have now found love and married women considered unthinkable as prospective royal brides only a generation ago.

Many wore Union flag facepaint or outfits to the celebrations.

“My mum was a big fan of Diana and we got raised on that. Harry has his mother-like ways with the public. He’s a people’s person,” said Daljit Sidhu.

For all the ostentation, for all the millions spent, this was a day for all generations and all people. Windsor was filled with the sound of ecstatic cheers and jubilation in a celebration of love and Britishness.

Along the treelined Long Walk in front of the Castle, where the majority of the wedding watchers congregated, families and friends gathered to eat, drink and party. Even at 9 a.m. an orderly line had formed for chicken and french fries from one of the many food trucks.

Some wore dresses inspired by the UK flag, others donned paper crowns on their heads and simply waved flags towards the azure sky.

Polish-born Angelica Kasperska had brought a ladder and binoculars for the occasion, a wise move when necks had to be craned for a glimpse of the great and good.

Children played football and chased balloons, while bellowing traders peddled Harry and Meghan scarves and flags to a crowd thirsty for commemorative paraphernalia.

The sight of homeless men, some sleeping, some sitting on the streets, was a reminder of the problems still facing this society, as it was eight years ago when the public mood before Prince William’s wedding was weighed down by recession, unemployment and austerity.

Prince Harry has married in the age of Brexit and he and his new bride have offered respite from the division that that has created.

There were gasps from the crowd as the dress and train were revealed.
Gasps of delight

Ahead of the ceremony, there was applause from the throng on the Long Walk as big screens broadcast the first glimpse of Prince Harry arriving with his brother and best man Prince William. Both wore the frock coat uniform of the Blues and Royals regiment, made specially on London’s Savile Row. It was showtime.

Every familiar face was greeted warmly, with as much affection reserved for the mother of the bride, Doria Ragland, as the future king, and father of the groom, Prince Charles.

Wedding watchers gasped on first sight of the bride’s dress and there was an audible intake of breath when the train emerged. The crowd cooed as the cameras flicked to a nervous-looking Harry and clapped as Prince Charles took Meghan by the arm before presenting her to his son.

There was the glitz associated with any great royal wedding; the bride arrived in a Rolls-Royce and departed in a gilded carriage. She wore a Givenchy dress and Cartier earrings.

Bishop Michael Curry: “Two young people fell in love, and we all showed up.”

But it was the zeal of the Most Rev. Michael Curry’s stirring address which ensured that those watching were left in no doubt that this was now not the British monarchy as they knew it only yesterday. It felt different. It was different.

The African-American bishop began and ended with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, he talked of discovering the “redemptive power of love,” he compared the power of love to the power of fire, mentioned Instagram and caused a chuckle when he promised to wrap up his lengthy oration so “we can get you two married.”

There was a sense that the crowd on the Long Walk did not know what to make of the groundbreaking moment, but they reserved some of their loudest cheers for Curry upon the conclusion of his sermon.

Crowds line the route to catch a glimpse of the couple.
‘This is history’

“Thank God the world is watching this,” tweeted black British TV presenter Ore Oduba. “Never seen or heard a ceremony like it. This is history.”

As the gospel choir sang “Stand By Me” the hordes lining the Long Walk sang along to the chorus of the 1961 classic. It was another unexpected moment. British royal weddings are usually packed full of hymns. Never before have they been a multicultural celebration.

Sleep-deprived and jaded, the crowd’s energy understandably abated until returning to full voice and renewed vigor when Prince Harry walked out of the chapel arm-in-arm with Meghan and embarked on a procession through Windsor’s streets and park.

The sound of clapping rippled through the town as a captivated public was given its opportunity to see husband and wife in the flesh.

“That was so cool,” said a young American as the couple passed in a horse-drawn Ascot Landau carriage, flanked by the household cavalry soldiers, Prince Harry’s former regiment.

The new Duchess perhaps needs to practice her royal wave. It must be from the wrist, always from the wrist. But scorn cannot be poured on an occasion such as this. As the Most Rev. Curry said in his sermon: “Two young people fell in love, and we all showed up.”

Two women watching a video screen cry as the bride enters the chapel.
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German military set to be rebuilt around national security: report

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen plans a fundamental reorganization of the Bundeswehr, a report in the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper says. A policy paper calls for national security to be prioritized.

Ursula von der Leyen is planning to completely remake the Bundeswehr to strengthen its focus on national as well as international defense, daily newspaper the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Friday.

The paper cited a draft copy of a policy paper titled “Concepts for the Bundeswehr,” which recommends a fundamental reorganization of the German military to ensure it “makes its contribution to national security provision.”

For more than a decade, the Bundeswehr has focused mainly on overseas deployments, including peacekeeping duties in several conflict zones. But in future, national and international alliance defense should be put on an equal footing, the report said.

New security situation

The plans will entail the spending of billions of euros, according to the paper, which will be used to rebuild military structures, some of which have been completely lost.

The paper highlighted several security developments in Europe over the past five years, including the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine. Russia’s annexation of Crimea had also showed that more than 70 years of European peace could be endangered, it said.

Germany’s grand coalition has been arguing over plans to increase the federal defense budget. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives have called for defense spending to rise to 1.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2021, well above the 1.27 percent proposed for this year.

€49 billion to spend

That would allow spending of around €49 billion ($59 billion), which several reports have suggested is urgently needed to upgrade equipment and transportation, as well as enhance training for military personnel.

But the proposal would still leave Germany far short of a NATO target of 2 percent of GDP, which has been demanded by US President Donald Trump.

The center-left Social Democrats have so far rejected the spending plans, which must be decided by July 4, when the German Cabinet is due to consider longer-term expenditure.

As a legacy of World War II, Germany has restrictive guidelines for its military activity, leading some to question whether spending 2 percent of GDP would make sense, given the limitations on what kind of missions the Bundeswehr can participate in.

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German military draws up 450-million-euro wish list

by DW

Germany’s under-equipped military, the Bundeswehr, wants to spend hundreds of millions on new weapons. Some of the money will go toward leasing drones from Israel, but first the government needs a new budget.

Amidst criticism that the Germany’s military hardware is fast becoming obsolete, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen will ask the government for a massive cash injection to update its equipment.

According to a list obtained by two German newspapers, von der Leyen is requesting 450 million euros ($553 million) for 18 separate items. A defense ministry spokesman said the Bundeswehr would present its procurement requests to the Bundestag “soon.”

“We hope that the material situation of the Bundeswehr will be improved,” Defense Ministry spokesman Holger Neumann said at the government’s Monday press conference.

Part of the money is intended for upgrades to Germany’s Puma tanks and maintenance of its NH90 helicopters. Money would also go toward a nine-year contract to lease Heron TP drones capable of carrying arms — all in all the cost of this deal will be one billion euros.

Plans for the future

The coalition agreement signed between the conservatives and the Social Democrats in March sanctions the leasing of the Israeli drones as a stop-gap measure until the development of a European drone within the framework of the European Defense Union.

The coalition agreement foresees investments of 10 billion euros to modernize the Bundeswehr, but von der Leyen has said she doesn’t think that sum will be sufficient. The latest request for funds will have to be approved by the government when it draws up its budget for 2018.

Earlier this year, an internal Bundeswehr document that was leaked to the press questioned whether the German military was well enough equipped to fulfill its duties — a situation termed “scandalous” by members of the opposition.

Germany spent around 37 billion euros on defense in 2017 — the ninth highest defense budget in the world. That sum is scheduled to increase to 39 billion euros in 2018. But German military spending falls far short of the 2 percent of national GDP targeted by NATO.

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Berlin streets to lose links with brutal colonial past

by BBC

Berlin is set to rename streets linked to atrocities Germany committed during its 1884-1919 occupation of Namibia.

Local councillors agreed on new street names for the so-called African Quarter in the north-west of the German capital on Wednesday evening.

After more than a decade of debate, a final vote – seen as a formality – will be held soon.

Then names associated with Germany’s imperial past will be replaced with ones dedicated to liberation fighters.

“The African Quarter still glorifies colonialism and its crimes,” council members from the Greens, Social Democrats and Left parties say in their joint motion.

“That conflicts with our understanding of democracy and does lasting harm to the image of the city of Berlin.”

Local media report the motion’s approval is certain, as the three parties hold the majority of votes necessary to accept their motion.

Germany has acknowledged its brutal imperial past, including what historians call the first genocide of the 20th Century. Between 1904 and 1908, some 100,000 indigenous Herero and Nama people were killed.

The African Quarter, which is in a multi-ethnic working-class neighbourhood in the Berlin district of Wedding, is home to squares and streets associated with German South West Africa – now modern-day Namibia.

Its founder Adolf Luederitz, its imperial commissioner Gustav Nachtigal, and the founder of German East Africa – today’s Tanzania – Carl Peters will no longer have locales named after them.

New names for locales include Maji Maji Boulevard, Anna Mungunda Boulevard, Cornelius Frederiks Street and Bell Square.

Maji Maji – a battle cry used by the indigenous people at the time – commemorates the largely unknown liberation struggle against German colonial rule.

Anna Mungunda was the first Herero woman to take a leading role in the independence movement.

Cornelius Frederiks led the Nama people’s resistance fight against the German imperialist rulers.

Rudolf Douala Manga Bell was a Duala king in Cameroon who, alongside his wife Emily, resisted land grabs by white colonisers.

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Nazi legacy found in Norwegian trees


The relentless campaign to find and sink Germany’s WWII battleship, the Tirpitz, left its mark on the landscape that is evident even today.

The largest vessel in Hitler’s Kriegsmarine, it was stationed for much of the war along the Norwegian coast to deter an Allied invasion.

The German navy would hide the ship in fjords and screen it with chemical fog.

This “smoke” did enormous damage to the surrounding trees which is recorded in their growth rings.

Claudia Hartl, from the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, stumbled across the impact while examining pines at Kåfjord near Alta.

The dendrochronologist was collecting wood cores to build up a picture of past climate in the area. Severe cold and even infestation from insects can severely stunt annual growth in a stand, but neither of these causes could explain the total absence of rings seen in some trees dated to 1945.

Some had a ring but you would hardly see it.

A colleague suggested it could have something to do with the Tirpitz, which was anchored the previous year at Kåfjord where it was attacked by Allied bombers.

Archive documents show the ship released chlorosulphuric acid to camouflage its position.

“We think this artificial smoke damaged the needles on the trees,” Dr Hartl told BBC News.

“If trees don’t have needles they can’t photosynthesise and they can’t produce biomass. In pine trees, needles usually last from three to seven years because they’re evergreens. So, if the trees lose their needles, it can take a very long time for them to recover.”

The Tirpitz pictured in Kåfjord with the smokescreen seen drifting across the water.

In one tree, there is no growth seen for nine years from 1945. “Afterwards, it recovered but it took 30 years to get back to normal growth. It’s still there; it’s still alive, and it’s a very impressive tree,” Dr Hartl said.

In other pines, rings are present but they are extremely thin – easy to miss. As expected, sampling shows the impacts falling off with distance. But it is only at 4km that trees start to display no effects.

The Tirpitz sustained some damage at Kåfjord. However, a continuous seek-and-destroy campaign eventually caught up with the battleship and it was sunk by RAF Lancasters in late 1944 in Tromso fjord further to the west.

Dr Hartl believes her “warfare dendrochronology” will find similar cases elsewhere.

“I think it’s really interesting that the effects of one engagement are still evident in the forests of northern Norway more than 70 years later. In other places in Europe, they also used this artificial smoke and may be also other chemicals. So perhaps you can find similar patterns and effects from WWII.”

The Mainz researcher presented her research here at the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly in Vienna, Austria.

Sampling shows the impacts falling off with distance.
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German defense minister tells troops in Afghanistan to prepare for long haul

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has told Bundeswehr troops in Afghanistan they should prepare to stay in the country for the foreseeable future. This follows the Bundestag’s decision to raise troop numbers.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen admitted on Sunday that Afghanistan was still far from ready to take responsibility for its own security situation.

“It is not a question of a time frame that must be stubbornly stuck to,” von der Leyen told German troops during a visit to the Bundeswehr base in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

The length of the mission in Afghanistan depended on whether conditions in the country improved, she said, adding that “we need patience and staying power.”

Von der Leyen’s remarks came on the back of the German parliament’s decision on Thursday to extend the Bundeswehr’s mission to Afghanistan, now in its 16th year, and raise the number of troops stationed in the conflict-ridden country from 980 to 1,300.

Germany’s new ruling coalition government has also vowed to increase military spending by some €10 billion ($12.4 billion) over the next four years, with further funds expected to be allocated towards development aid.

The German Defense Ministry defended the rise in troop numbers amid concerns that it would overstretch the Bundeswehr’s aging military equipment.

The German military came under criticism in the winter after it was able to carry out only around a half of its joint operations alongside the Afghan army. Von der Leyen blamed these shortcomings on a lack of security personnel and vowed to “fix this situation.”

NATO’s “Resolute Support” mission is focused on training, advising and assisting Afghan security forces in the ongoing conflict with extremist groups, such as the Taliban and affiliate divisions of the so-called “Islamic State” (IS). The German military is involved in implementing these goals in northern Afghanistan, mainly in the city of Kunduz.

Deteriorating security situation

Von der Leyen’s pledge to keep German troops in Afghanistan reflects the deteriorating security situation in the country. A resurgent Taliban has regained control of large pockets following the initial withdrawal of US-led NATO troops at the end of 2014. IS affiliates also remain powerful in the region, despite the main group having been effectively defeated in Syria and Iraq.

Afghan security forces currently only control around 60 percent of the country: “That is good, but not enough by a long shot,” von der Leyen said.

The Afghanistan military’s wavering control has prompted a surge of extremist attacks since the new year, the most devastating of which saw a Taliban suicide bomber blow up an explosive-laden ambulance on a busy Kabul street in January, killing more than 100 people and injuring at least 235.

This week, an IS suicide bomber killed 29 Shiite worshippers celebrating the Persian New Year.

According to the United Nations, more than 10,000 civilians were killed or wounded in the ongoing war in Afghanistan in 2017, with militant bombings and terror attacks responsible for a majority of the casualties.

 

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