They have a beer ration of up to a liter a day, and wurst for dinner. Taliban or no Taliban, Germans take a little bit of home with them when they serve in trouble spots. Even their carefully sorted rubbish gets dumped in wheelie bins before being sent from Afghanistan to Germany for recycling.

Now Germany’s most senior officer has berated his troops for going soft. “We cannot guarantee soldiers that they will have an all-round feel-good experience,” said General Wolfgang Schneiderhan.

His outburst follows complaints made by German soldiers to the official ombudsman about their tours abroad. Some have grumbled about unsuitable sleeping bags for their Congo peace-keeping mission. “There is no reason why this issue should have come before Parliament,” said General Schneiderhan — while others moaned about the long hours, a lack of childcare for their families at home and poor medical care.

Army doctors say that they are on the brink of leaving because pay and conditions are so bad. So many have returned to civilian life that there is a shortage of medics in the field.

“Perhaps the problem is down to the general tendency in society to delegate responsibility to someone else, or perhaps it is the stress associated with change,” he told several hundred army officers and politicians at an official reception.

In 2007 German forces in Afghanistan consumed about 90,000 bottles of wine in addition to 1.7 million pints of beer; that figure has stayed constant. British and US bases by contrast have an alcohol ban.

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