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We mustn’t forget the plight of people in Mali”

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Germany’s support for the French intervention in Mali and the future of Germany’s engagement in Afghanistan. Published in the Nordwest-Zeitung, 17 January 2013

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Hotspot Mali: How far can Germany help here?

For us Europeans the prospect of a country south of the Mediterranean becoming a failed state and a new hub for global terrorism is something that can’t be in our interest. So France did right to take action, as the Malian Government requested. We Germans won’t be deploying combat forces, but we will be participating in the planned European mission in support of France and the African countries involved here. We’ll be sending two Bundeswehr transport planes for the African forces under ECOWAS command and we’ll also be providing humanitarian assistance for people in Mali who’re now refugees. However important strategic and military considerations may be, their plight must on no account be forgotten.

Is some form of military backup for this assistance possible?

I don’t want to speculate on that. We won’t be deploying combat forces, but nor will we leave France in the lurch. We can’t participate in every combat operation around the world. Germany makes a major contribution to global security, we have thousands of Bundeswehr personnel in Afghanistan, in Turkey operating our Patriot anti-missile systems, in Lebanon and in the Balkans.

Do we need a Bundestag mandate?

For the planned troop transport operations this isn’t necessary. Regardless of any constitutional requirements, it goes without saying, however, that the German Government will consult very closely with the German Bundestag on this matter. And that’s exactly what we’ve been doing here.

Turning to Afghanistan, there are reports that the United States could pull out completely at the end of 2014. What would that mean for Germany?

The international community will live up to its responsibilities in Afghanistan also in the post 2014 era. We don’t want to see a political vacuum that would allow the Islamist terrorists to make Kabul once again their capital. However, it’s also true that there can be no viable military solution, what’s needed here is a political solution.

How can Germany do more in Afghanistan post 2014?

We can support civil society, especially where women and girls are concerned. We can help with economic reconstruction, so these people who’ve suffered so much from war and instability can see a real prospect of a better future. That’s the way to build a stable and modern Afghanistan.

What opportunities do you see for German business?

In northern Afghanistan I see good prospects for German companies and investors. But the environment for business needs to be right. That means vigorous action must be taken to stamp out corruption and crime. Countries can achieve long-term stability only if their people have real hope of economic and social progress. Investors will only invest in countries where they think conditions are right. That’s something we’re now working on together with the Afghan Government.

What can be done to protect the Afghans who work for the Germans and fear for their lives when our forces leave?

Thank you for asking that question. We definitely need to think about the Afghans who’ve served us so loyally over all these years. The more stability Afghanistan achieves, the better their prospects will be. We have a responsibility for these people – which we’ll live up to, of course.

The questions were put by Gunars Reichenbachs. Reproduced by kind permission of the Nordwest-Zeitung.

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