Silent Complicity

BERLIN | | usa

BERLIN (Own report) - Government advisors in Berlin are warning against continuing German complicity in the increasing incidence of "targeted killings" by the US armed forces and the CIA. A newly published study by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) confirms that the United States is dramatically expanding its use of "targeted killings," not just in Pakistan. According to SWP, one of the prospects under consideration is the use of drone attacks or targeted commando assaults to "neutralize" members of the Mexican drug and weapons cartels, if they impinge upon US interests. At the Hindu Kush, not only special forces of the Bundeswehr are involved in "targeted killings" i.e. armed, extra-judiciary executions of alleged insurgents. Intelligence obtained by German secret services and police units could also contribute, because it is passed on to US authorities within the framework of the so-called "war on terror." According to SWP Washington will increase its campaign for stronger support for these killings in the near future - also in Berlin.

An Important Pillar

As Berlin's Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) explains in a recently published study, over the past few years, several countries have adopted a policy of using "targeted killings" or of keeping it as an option. According to SWP, since late 2000, "the targeted killing of persons, involved in the planning and execution of attacks against the state of Israel" is "an aspect of the official Israeli security and defense policy."[1] Russia also, according to the study, permits "targeted killings" primarily of "persons qualified as terrorists in the context of the Chechen War." A law was passed in March 2006 empowering the Russian president to order operations against suspected terrorists, also abroad. In the USA, the use of "targeted killings" is based on Congressional decisions made shortly after the events of September 11, 2001, granting the president authority to use all necessary means in the war on Islamist terrorists. Since then, the "targeted neutralization" of enemy forces "by the military and the US intelligence service CIA" has become "an important pillar" in the United States' so-called war on terror, reports the SWP.

Systematically Expanded

The SWP notes differences in how states apply their "targeted killing" policy. Whereas in Israel "targeted killing" has been "in the public debate for a long time" - leading even to the country's Supreme Court ruling on the policy - Washington "has refused any transparency." The US government has classified all corresponding programs of its military and the CIA "top secret." At the same time, commando assaults and particularly drone attacks are systematically being expanded. While military special forces units are carrying out these operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are being carried out mainly by the CIA in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. In Pakistan alone, more than 2,000 people, have been liquidated by drone attacks since 2001, and Pakistani NGOs list a total of 66 drone attacks in the period from January to September 2011 killing 515, a large proportion of whom were civilians.[2] According to CIA circles, the number of deadly drone attacks has set new records under Barack Obama. In addition, SWP reports, "the infrastructures for using drones at the Horn of Africa and on the Arabian Peninsular are currently being expanded."

Against Threats of Every Kind

Not only an expansion of the territorial range for "targeted killings," but even a broadening of the categories of targets are being prepared. According to SWP, whereas the USA is currently limiting its "targeted killings" to "militant Islamist groups," the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), a command institution of the US Armed Forces, has begun "considering" other scenarios for using drones and nightly commando "targeted killings." The "drug and weapons cartels operating out of Mexico" have "come under scrutiny," because they "could also be considered a threat to the USA." With this sort of reasoning, "targeted killing" could be expanded to cover almost anything.

With German Participation

SWP points out that Germany is actively involved in "targeted killing." Germany explicitly considers that in principal, enemy combatants "even as non-participants in concrete hostile situations can be targeted and combated" in a "non-internationalized armed conflict" - a characterization being applied to the Afghanistan war. This would include "the use of deadly force."[3] The Bundeswehr is participating in the so-called targeting in Afghanistan. "Targeting" refers to the lists of names of real or alleged insurgents, whose "capture" or "killing" is planned. These lists are drawn up by military personal, without any consideration for standards of rule of law. Berlin claims that German participation is planned only for "capture" operations. Aside from the question of how this should be actually implemented in real situations, high-ranking Bundeswehr officers express their misgivings. Brig. Gen. Josef Dieter Blotz, for example, already declared in August 2010 that the German Special Forces Commandos (KSK) are participating in the "liquidation" of insurgents. At the time, the German defense ministry had admitted that during "offensive operations" with Bundeswehr participation, there had been at least one casualty.[4] Information provided, for example, to the CIA by German secret services, can also be used in "targeted killings." This was obviously the case, when in Pakistan a German citizen also fell victim to a CIA drone attack in October 2010.[5] According to reports, the German government has now forbidden the transmission of information that can be used for the localization and - therefore "targeted killing" of German citizens.[6] But this obviously does not apply for non-Germans.

States not Abiding by Rule of Law

SWP has been observing "targeted killings" and similar methods used in the war on terror, since some time with apprehension. ( reported.[7]) SWP does not take the position of Kai Ambos, a judge and law professor at the University in Gottingen. Last May, Ambos characterized the "targeted killing" assassination of Osama bin Laden as an "extra judicial execution" - and therefore as an action for which "states that do not abide by the rule of law (Unrechtsstaaten) are summoned before human rights bodies.[8] But in view of the fact that particularly drone attacks usually provoke strong protests and further ignite armed insurgency, SWP advises the German government "to maintain the greatest possible distance to US American policy and to place it into question, at least under strategic considerations in the Afghan-Pakistani theatre of war." SWP does not see this as hopeless because of dissention within the Obama administration: whereas the State Department is calling for "more stringent criteria" - meaning "targeted killings outside the combat zone in Afghanistan and Pakistan must be justifiable with the right to self defense," the Pentagon is pleading "for basically approving the killing of all members of al Qaida affiliated groups." This dissension should be used.


The authors of the SWP study consider this an urgent problem - not only because of the growing frequency of "targeted killings," but also because it can be expected that the US government will soon implicate Germany and the EU much more. In reference to the Washington's intentions to broaden the ideological and material basis for "targeted killings," the study notes that Berlin should be "prepared for Washington's (...) launching an offensive campaign in the foreseeable future, to win international legitimacy and approval for its policy." However, there are presently no signs that Berlin will relinquish its silent complicity in the "targeted killings" of the US military and CIA.

[1] Quotations from: Peter Rudolf, Christian Schaller: "Targeted Killing". Zur völkerrechtlichen, ethischen und strategischen Problematik gezielten Tötens in der Terrorismus- und Aufstandsbekämpfung, SWP-Studie S1, Januar 2012
[2] see also Wie in Vietnam
[3] Deutscher Bundestag Drucksache 17/2884 vom 08.09.2010
[4] see also Gezielte Tötungen
[5] see also An den Grenzen des Rechtsstaats and Tyrannical States
[6] Deutschland schränkt Weitergabe von Geheimdienstdaten ein; 15.05.2011
[7] see also An den Grenzen des Rechtsstaats and Gezieltes Töten in großem Stil
[8] see also Tyrannical States