Germany May Pull Special Forces From Afghanistan By Andreas Cremer June 29 (Bloomberg) -- German lawmakers are considering scaling back the country's military commitment to the U.S.-led war on terrorism in Afghanistan, a move that could undermine Chancellor Angela Merkel's government and strain U.S. ties. The Social Democrats, one half of Merkel's coalition, are drawing up plans to withdraw Special Forces engaged in U.S.-led efforts to fight the Taliban insurgency, lawmakers said. About 100 soldiers from the KSK Special Forces are deployed in Afghanistan under Operation Enduring Freedom, the U.S.-led military response to the September 11 terrorist attacks. ``A majority is emerging in the Social Democrats' parliamentary caucus in favor of pulling the 100 Special Forces out of Operation Enduring Freedom,'' Hans-Peter Bartels, who sits on the German Parliament's 30-member defense committee, said in an interview. Fellow party lawmakers view Germany's involvement as ``a burden,'' he said. Any reduction of Germany's military engagement would be a blow to Merkel and her Christian Democrats, who have vowed to keep troops in Afghanistan, described by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer as ``one of the front lines'' in the global fight against terrorism. Public opinion is against the deployment though, and the German Bundestag, or parliament, must vote by October 12 to renew troop deployments. Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung's position ``is clear: We need parliament to back all troop mandates,'' ministry spokesman Thomas Raabe told a regular news conference in Berlin today. `Critical Voices' Social Democrat lawmaker Walter Kolbow, a deputy defense minister under former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, said there are ``very many critical voices'' about the operation within the party. It's valid to ask ``whether or not this operation is still wise,'' given that North Atlantic Treaty Organization air raids are causing a growing number of Afghan civilian casualties, he said in an interview. Germany currently has about 3,000 soldiers and other staff in Afghanistan with NATO-led forces and reconstruction teams. A mandate to participate in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force expires Oct. 13, the same date as the mandate for six Tornado fighter jets deployed in April to assist NATO- authorized reconnaissance and surveillance work. The Special Forces are under a separate mandate. The Tornado deployment is the subject of an opposition-led legal challenge. Germany's highest court is due to rule on the case on July 3. Suicide Attack German voters are uneasy about Germany's military engagement in Afghanistan regardless of the mandate, polls show. Sixty-eight percent of 1,000 people questioned by Emnid oppose Germany's military deployment, according to a poll published on May 22, three days after three German soldiers and five Afghan civilians were killed in a suicide attack in Afghanistan. No more than 29 percent said they supported the engagement. Against that backdrop, Bartels said pulling out German Special Forces would free Germany of a ``heavy burden'' and make it easier for him and fellow legislators to vote in favor of extending the NATO-led ISAF mandate. ``We shouldn't take responsibility for something we cannot at all influence,'' Bartels said, noting that Operation Enduring Freedom is exclusively led by the U.S. Sixty-nine lawmakers, almost a third of the Social Democrats' 222-member parliamentary group, voted against Merkel's motion in March to deploy Tornado jets. The Social Democrats, along with the opposition Greens and Left Party, would have sufficient seats in the 613-member Bundestag to block any extension of a mandate. `Indispensable' Merkel's Christian Democrats counter that any step to weaken anti-terror efforts may undermine the ISAF-led civil rebuilding program for Afghanistan. German forces under ISAF may even be forced to engage in combat against the Taliban if the country withdrew from Operation Enduring Freedom, said Eckart von Klaeden, the Christian Democrats' foreign affairs spokesman. ``The fight against terror under the auspices of OEF is indispensable for the success of ISAF,'' von Klaeden, an alternate member of parliament's defense committee, said in an interview. A 21-member group of Social Democrat defense, foreign policy and security experts is now working on a list of demands, including possible changes to Germany's Afghanistan-related mandates. The proposals will be discussed by the party's parliamentary caucus on July 4. ``When the summer recess is over, Merkel will have some work to do to persuade her Social Democrat allies'' to stand by the Afghanistan commitment, Uwe Andersen, a professor of political science at the University of Bochum, said in an interview. ``There's no doubt that her sunny summit season is over. What's needed now is leadership at home.''