How much culture is needed? the intercultural dilemma of the Bundeswehr in ISAF

Maren Tomforde*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Using the Bundeswehr operation in command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan as an example, this article follows the assumption that German soldiers find themselves in an 'intercultural dilemma'. Intercultural competencies are expected of them in theatre but they are not always able to apply them and the strategic- political level responsible for the mandate hardly incorporates the 'cultural factor'. However, 'intercultural sensitivity with reservations' will not win the 'hearts and minds' of the local population, or help to guarantee sustainable stability in conflict regions such as Afghanistan. Profound appraisal of the role of local cultures should be of central importance to the tactical-operational level during operations abroad as well as to the strategic-political level at home. The article discusses the tactical- operational level in regard to how much intercultural competence Bundeswehr 'peacekeepers' need and what kind of intercultural challenges they encounter in Afghanistan. On a long-term basis, conflict management, peacebuilding and sustainable development can only be achieved in harmony with the people in the area and not against them or over their heads and needs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)526-538
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Peacekeeping
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2010


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