1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

German Parliament Approves Expanded Afghanistan Mission

October 24, 2003

As the German Bundestag on Friday voted to expand the scope of Germany's peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, Defense Minister Peter Struck said German troops wouldn't get mixed up in the country's war on drugs.

A contingent of Bundeswehr soldiers in Afghanistan will soon be leaving for the northern city of Kunduz.Image: AP

Until now, the mission of the German army, or Bundeswehr, in Afghanistan has been contained to the area in and around the capital, Kabul. But to combat increasing lawlessness in remote parts of the country, the leaders of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan say it's necessary to set up a center of command in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz.

Due to constitutional requirements, the German parliament has to approve any military deployments or, as in this case, significant changes to deployments. The petition before parliament on Friday included an extension of the German ISAF contingent's mandate to October 13, 2004, as well as increasing the number of soldiers from 1800 to as many as 2250. A team of 230 - 450 soldiers is set to be deployed in Kunduz.

Bundestag convinced

An overwhelming majority of 531 out of 593 MP's voted in favor of the motion. Only 57 MP's voted against, while 5 abstained. Despite criticism about the government's handling of the expansion plan, the opposition conservatives and liberals supported the new mission.

Struck made it clear to parliament that while ISAF has had many successes in Afghanistan, the mission is not without an element of danger. Before the vote he spoke of "signs of stagnation" in the country that cannot be overlooked. The focus now, he said, should be on boosting the reach and power of Afghanistan's new governing body led by President Hamid Karzai, and preventing the country from once again becoming a home base for terrorist organisations.

Drug war off limits

But Struck drew the line at involving German soldiers in Afghanistan's struggle with the illegal drug trade. "We don't protect any drug lords, we're there to protect our civil workers helping in the reconstruction effort," Struck said in an interview with ARD television, adding that drugs were a matter for the local police.

German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul said the plan would grant the people of Afghanistan "a more dignified way of life," and backed Struck's view that the Bundeswehr's expanded presence would make it easier for charitable organisations to carry out their work.

If the Bundeswehr's mission proves successful, it could spearhead similar missions in other towns such as Herat, Kandahar and Masar-i-Sharif.