German Army to prevent Islamist infiltration with all-out background checks on new recruits

New recruits of the German armed forces Bundeswehr take oath in front of the Reichstag, the seat of the German lower house of parliament Bundestag, in Berlin © Tobias Schwarz
All recruits willing to join the Germany military will have to undergo detailed background and security checks – run by the military intelligence agency – that would rule out a threat of insider attacks and help detect Islamists and far-right extremists.

The extraordinary measure is set out in a new bill, expected to be approved by the German cabinet on Wednesday, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported. 

According to the proposed legislation, starting from July 2017, all recruits will be checked for links to radicalism and extremism by the German military intelligence agency, MAD.

“Currently there are indications that Islamist circles are trying to insert the so-called short-time servicemen to the armed forces so that they can receive such [military] training,” reads an introduction to the draft cited by DPA news agency.

The proposal highlights German government’s efforts to tackle so-called ‘green-on-blue attacks’, otherwise known as insider attacks, at the very outset.

On Sunday, Die Welt cited an unnamed military official who claimed that there is “a three-digit number of suspected extremists in the armed forces,” among them “268 right-wing extremists, 64 Islamists and six left-wing extremists.” 

As of April this year, 29 former Bundeswehr soldiers have traveled to Syria and Iraq, where they were enrolled in the ranks of Islamic State’s (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) security units, according to Frankfurter Allgemeine.

Currently, new recruits willing to join the military only have to present their police records and formally agree to comply with the German constitution.

If adopted, the new measure would result in at least 20,000 screenings annually, causing some €8.2 billion (US$9.13 billion) in additional expenditures allocated for the MAD activity.

“The MAD has all necessary instruments in place to prevent extremists from joining the Bundeswehr to learn how to handle heavy weapons,” Stephan Mayer, domestic affairs speaker of the CSU party, told the newspaper.

The head of parliamentary committee for intelligence agencies, Clemens Binninger, added the measure is “urgently needed,” given the rising threats of possible insider attacks within the military carried out by Islamist or far-right sympathizers.