E.t was a highly controversial debate in the Bundestag on Wednesday afternoon about the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan and the future of the country. The debate had become necessary during the parliamentary summer break, which was actually still going on, because the evacuation mission of the Bundeswehr needed a legal basis. The speakers from coalition and opposition factions agreed on the gloomy description of the situation in the country in the Hindu Kush. But while the members of the government factions tried to explain their behavior, the opposition attacked with great severity. The approaching federal election cast its shadow.
In a government statement, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) announced that the evacuation mission should continue as long as possible. However, evidence spread on Wednesday that the airlift could end in a few days. Merkel said efforts will continue to be made to help Afghans leave the country who had helped Germany as local forces in the Bundeswehr, the police and development cooperation. But the Taliban are “now a reality,” said the Chancellor. Many people in Afghanistan are “very afraid”.
Lessons for future military operations
Like other members of the coalition factions, Merkel called for a calm analysis of the events. They underestimated “how comprehensive and breathtakingly” the resistance against the Taliban was quickly given up. Then she allowed herself what she called a “somewhat pointed, personal” comment. “Afterwards, in retrospect, to do precise analyzes and evaluations, that is not really complicated.” The international community of states was not able to decide afterwards.
Lessons must be learned for future military operations abroad, Merkel demanded. “The answers will depend on which political goals we can realistically set ourselves for future and current assignments abroad.” The Chancellor formulated a number of questions, for example whether the goals were too ambitious, whether they were set by the majority of the people in Afghanistan, whether the level of corruption among the Afghans responsible had been underestimated.
The Bundestag member and candidate for Chancellor of the Greens, Annalena Baerbock, used the debate to attack the federal government. In June, the coalition rejected an application by the Greens to get local workers out of Afghanistan early on, giving more weight to domestic political motives than foreign policy. Baerbock called for the establishment of a committee of inquiry. Only in such a place could witnesses be summoned and files viewed. In doing so, she opposed the SPD’s proposal to set up a study commission. In Baerbock’s view, this would not have sufficient powers. In addition, her parliamentary group applied for a “deletion moratorium” so that files could not be deleted.
The FDP party and parliamentary group chairman Christian Lindner joined the call for a committee of inquiry. He pointed out that France had already started fleeing local workers in May. His parliamentary group also submitted a request in June to make it easier for local workers to leave the country. The causes of the development in Afghanistan must be analyzed, including the consequences. But now is not the right time for that. Lindner supported the proposal of the Union’s candidate for chancellor, Armin Laschet (CDU), to set up a national security council in the next federal government. As Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Laschet could have attended the Bundestag session, but did not do so.
The SPD’s candidate for chancellor, Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, did not join the debate either. Rolf Mützenich, chairman of the parliamentary group, spoke for the Social Democrats. Like the Chancellor, he said it was too early to draw conclusions from the events in Afghanistan. However, these would have to be “relentlessly” processed. To this end, he recommended a commission of inquiry.
Mützenich used his appearance to criticize the Greens, who co-govern in countries from which people would be deported to Afghanistan. Without naming Scholz, he said that what is needed now is a head of government “with a sense of proportion” who can rely on “many years of experience and competence”. He rejected the national security council proposed by Laschet.