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US Drone War Waged from Air Base in Germany

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A War Waged From German Soil: US Ramstein Base Key in Drone Attacks (excerpt)

(Source: Spiegel Online; posted April 24, 2015)

Knowledge is power. Ignorance often means impotence. But sometimes ignorance can be comfortable, if it protects from entanglements, conflicts and trouble. This even applies to the German chancellor.

In the heart of Germany's Palatinate region -- just a few kilometers from the city of Kaiserslautern -- the United States maintains its largest military base on foreign soil. The base is best known as a hub for American troops making their way to the Middle East.

But another strategic task of the headquarters of the United States Air Force in Europe (USAFE) remained a national secret for years. Even the German government claimed to know nothing when, two years ago, the base became the subject of suspicion. It was alleged that Ramstein is also an important center in President Barack Obama's drone war against Islamist terror. A former pilot claimed that the data for all drone deployments is routed through the military base.

The report caused quite a stir. Were the deadly precision weapons -- which can eliminate al-Qaida terrorists, Taliban fighters or members of the Shabaab militia on the Horn of Africa with apparent clinical precision -- guided toward their targets via German soil?

No, the German government said at the time, that's not quite correct. But even today, the government says it still has "no reliable information" about what exactly is going on. The United States has refused to provide it.

But the Americans' secretiveness also comes in handy for Berlin. Not knowing anything officially prevents the government from having to take any action.

Berlin's comfortable position, though, could soon be a thing of the past. Classified documents that have been viewed by SPIEGEL and The Intercept provide the most detailed blueprint seen to date of the architecture of Obama's "war on terror."

The documents, which originate from US intelligence sources and are classified as "top secret," date from July 2012. A diagram shows how the US government structures the deployment of drones. Other documents provide significant insight into how operations in places like Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Yemen are carried out. And they show that a central -- and controversial -- element of this warfare is played out in Germany.

The graphics show that Ramstein is involved in virtually every Air Force drone attack. Even if the pilots are sitting at Air Force bases in Nevada, Arizona or Missouri, and even if the targets are located on the Horn of Africa or the Arab Peninsula, USAFE headquarters at Ramstein is almost always involved. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the Spiegel Online website.