Berlin—Since President Obama ordered the special forces strike that killed mass murderer Osama Bin Laden earlier this month, the German government has grown increasingly reluctant to help Washington find terrorists who are fighting U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
According to a lengthy article in last week’s Der Spiegel magazine, Germany’s interior ministry and the Verfassungsschutz, its domestic intelligence agency, have stopped providing the U.S. government with data that could help locate radical German Islamists for drone strikes on the battlefields of South Asia.
Der Spiegel noted that the German government furnishes telephone numbers to the Americans upon request, but not locations. One internal document specifies that the German government will not allow Washington to use German intelligence in planned drone attacks to pursue terrorists.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and her ministers are uncomfortable about the prospect of U.S. forces killing German nationals. Yet, it was the infamous Hamburg mosque that served as the organizational hub for al Qaeda’s devastating 9/11 attacks on the United States.
In addition, there has been a steady movement of German Muslims—as well as Germans who have converted to radical Islam – to the conflict zones of Afghanistan and Pakistan that has created a genuine crisis for the Americans. Since the early 1990s, German security agencies estimate that roughly 200 Islamists, including 65 who converted to Islam, have departed Germany for terror training camps in the region. And German courts are currently examining an increasing numbers of criminal complaints against the Central Intelligence Agency, which could dramatically affect German-American relations.
One example is Bünyamin E, a 20-year-old German-Turkish jihadist who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in October 2010. Bünyamin arrived in Pakistan in the summer of 2010 and was a member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. (Traditionally, German media do not release the last names of suspects.)
Germany’s litigation against the United States, and its growing political opposition to counterterrorism work, does not bode well for America’s war on terror.
In June, President Obama will present Chancellor Merkel with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. One imagines they’ll have much to talk about after the ceremony.
Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.