The German army had planned to scale back its Afghan mission in 2016, but because of the fragile security situation it's had to reinforce its troops instead. DW's Nina Werkhäuser doubts that this will change anything.
Germany's army just can't seem to get out of Afghanistan. ISAF, the Bundeswehr's biggest mission so far - and the one that has cost the most lives - ended a year ago. Since then, Germany has been keeping troops in the country as part of a post-military stabilization force. The plan was to significantly reduce troop numbers in the spring of 2016. But the Ministry of Defense appears to have buried all hopes of that happening. At the end of September, the Taliban captured the northern Afghan city of Kunduz for a brief period. Previously, Kunduz had been considered a relatively safe place, thanks in large part to the presence of German soldiers there over the course of many years.
The shock of Kunduz
The capture of Kunduz showed just how fragile stability is in Afghanistan. The Taliban managed to take the city quickly and they were only driven out by the Afghan army with massive support from US forces. This of course raises the question of whether or not the United States, Germany and other nations have achieved any sustainable results after years of training Afghan security forces. How successful can the current "Resolute Support" training mission be, given the high number of casualties and degree of employee turnover in the Afghan army and police force? Then there's the fact that many Afghans don't feel a particular bond with the country they're supposed to be defending.
Starting in early 2016, the German army will be expanding its mission up to a maximum of about 1,000 troops. The military consultants among them are supposed to teach the Afghan army what they can do better the next time the Taliban launches a major siege. Of course, many would argue that it would be wrong to abandon a country so shaken by crisis; that we must continue to stand by Afghanistan with our expertise and our money.
And yet, concerns that Germany is pouring its resources into a bottomless pit are justified. Despite a massive international effort, Afghanistan's problems are the same as they were 10 years ago, or eight, or even five years ago: Poor government, corruption, a lack of economic opportunity, power struggles with the Taliban, frequent attacks, and insecurity. Given that hundreds of thousands of Afghans have either left the country recently or still plan on leaving, one can only assume that the situation has gotten worse. "I want to get out of here, how can I get to Germany?" Afghans ask when they meet a German in their country.
Afghans must stabilize Afghanistan
Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen made an astute observation about this while speaking to parliament: It cannot be that Germany has, for years, been sending soldiers to stabilize Afghanistan, while at the same time, the country's elite turn their backs on their country. In the end, Afghans must stabilize their country themselves, she said. And while this is true, the facts speak for themselves. When the foundations of a society start to crumble, neither expertise nor money can help. It's doubtful, then, that sending more German soldiers to Afghanistan will change anything. The German government would be well advised to take a good hard look at the situation in six months time. And if there is no measureable progress, it should not hesitate to bring German soldiers back home.
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