When German diplomats work in crisis areas, the bodyguards of the Federal Police’s PSA unit never leave their side. When it comes to security issues, their advice is sought after on site.
The federal police unit responsible for protecting German diplomats in crisis areas commemorated its founding 15 years ago with a ceremony and guests from foreign special forces.
The work of the diplomats in places like Baghdad, Tripoli or Kiev and many other locations would be unthinkable without the active support of the federal police, emphasized the head of the security department of the Federal Foreign Office, Mirko Schilbach, today at the celebrations for the 15th anniversary in Sankt Augustin near Bonn.
According to the Federal Police, the forces of the Police Protection Tasks Abroad (PSA) are currently ensuring the security of German diplomatic missions in around 80 countries. Her tasks also include protecting property and advising diplomats on security issues. According to the head of the department, Jürgen Hennig, around 250 of his people are currently deployed.
Challenges for PSA forces
One of the dark hours in the history of the unit is the death of a federal police officer in 2013. At the time, the police officer was stationed at the embassy in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa. He was shot dead while running errands in town with a colleague.
A major challenge for the PSA forces was the evacuation of the German embassy in the Afghan capital Kabul after the militant Islamist Taliban took power two years ago. At the time, Hennig said of his employees: “They have been through more than two weeks of considerable mental and physical exertion.” They significantly supported the evacuation of the German embassy and protected German diplomats during the evacuation measures at the airport up to the last minute.
Among the new challenges his unit had to deal with were attacks with non-military drones. “We have to recognize them early and, if necessary, be able to bring them down,” said Hennig of the German Press Agency. In the future, the expansion of special knowledge will also be necessary with a view to IT skills and in dealing with chemical, biological and nuclear hazards. The PSA is partly financed with funds from the Federal Foreign Office.
When asked whether Germany tends to get its diplomats out of the country earlier or later than other nations in tricky situations, Hennig replied diplomatically: “I think we’re often in good company.” Good networking with other local actors is important for such decisions. These included, for example, the security experts from the United Nations.
“What else awaits us in the Sahel?”
Niger is one of the locations where the question of how much effort is required for protection is acute. The question, “What else awaits us in the Sahel?” is currently occupying the Federal Police, said Norms Großmann, Head of the Operations Department at the Federal Police Headquarters. At the end of July, the Presidential Guard overthrew the incumbent President Mohamed Bazoum in Niger. Massive anti-French protests ensued in the West African country.
An investigative committee of the Bundestag is dealing with possible wrong decisions regarding the evacuation in Kabul. In his first interviews with witnesses, the impression was created that officials from the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin had been putting on the brakes for a long time.
Since 2017, all special forces of the Federal Police have been brought together under the umbrella of Federal Police Directorate 11. The best-known of these units is the GSG 9, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. Unlike the GSG 9, there is no upper age limit for the PSA police officers.
He was particularly impressed by the performance of the PSA forces in Afghanistan in 2021, in Ukraine in 2022 and in Sudan in 2023, said the President of Federal Police Directorate 11, Olaf Lindner.
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