Book Review: Feindkontakt

Feindkontakt: Gefechtsberichte aus Afghanistan
(Troops in Contact: Combat reports from Afghanistan)
Sascha Brinkmann, Joachim Hoppe and Wolfgang Schröder
Hamburg: Maximilian Verlag 2013

Good Friday, March 31, 2010. An explosion rocks the heights above Isa Khel. After an intense firefight, 4 German soldiers lie dead in northern Afghanistan.

Feindkontakt explores the experience of the German Bundeswehr in Afghanistan from April to December 2010. It is a collection of accounts from soldiers, commanders and officers that provide a well rounded and unique perspective into the situation in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan at that time.

This was a hard book for me to read. Having spent some time in the military, albeit it in a country that will never go to war of its own volition, I found it very easy to put myself in the boots of the authors. Any soldier must at some point or other emotionally and intellectually confront the fact that the definition of the job is to put oneself in harms way for a greater objective or good. That a soldier relies upon the decisions of his or her commanders to accomplish the task at hand. A soldier also relies upon those decisions that are made with the best interest of the soldier in mind, and yet that there is a very real possibility that every day might be one’s last.

What I appreciate most about this book is the differing perspectives of the various contributors. The daily thoughts, concerns and struggles of the rank and file are different from that of a sergeant and vary greatly from that of his company commander or the battalion intelligence officer. This collection of distinct perspectives make for a well rounded narrative of the important events in Kunduz during 2010.

One of the most important aspects of this book is that it is not hesitant to be critical. Feindkontakt calls into question the mission at hand, whether the lives lost are worth the results and whether those results will have a lasting effect in the region. It critiques the position of the soldier in modern German society. It calls into question the legality of the mission as a whole with an excellently written expedition into the legal basis for ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) and the role of a solider therein. Above all it calls into question whether or not death in the service for one’s country truly is sweet and honorable.

I enjoyed reading Feindkontakt. That being said, I had to put it down and start fresh a few times. Unfortunately, it is only available in German. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the conflict in Afghanistan, the culture of the German Bundeswehr or what the daily life of a soldier in a hostile country might look like. This book is certainly not for everyone, but I found it provided a healthy, critical perspective of that period of time in the conflict in Afghanistan. For that point alone, I feel it is well worth reading.

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