The German commander in charge of military missions abroad, Lieutenant General Erich Pfeffer, has advocated for the use of armed drones to protect troops, weighing in on a sensitive political debate in the country.
“The troops themselves basically cannot understand why there is so much discussion, and don’t understand the reluctance,” Pfeffer told dpa. “If you take the arguments against armed drones to their logical conclusion, you would have to abolish essential parts of the armed forces,” he said.
Combat-ready support must be available in case troops are outgunned on the ground, he said, for example in an ambush.
“Close air support” was vital, he said. “That is the combat helicopter or the combat aircraft or the armed drone.”
Pfeffer has been head of Operations Command on the outskirts of Potsdam near Berlin since November 2015 and will retire in a few weeks.
The armed drone is the only means that is immediately available without delay if needed, he pointed out. With all other means, the troops on the ground are exposed to higher risks.
“If politicians are not prepared to provide armed drones, then we automatically increase the risk for the troops,” he concluded.
The Social Democrats and the Greens – two of the three parties involved in negotiations to form the next coalition government – have been sceptical about the purchase and use of armed drones. Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, including her defence minister, have backed their use.