Mandate and Progress Report

Nothing is straightforward in Afghanistan,” according to Foreign Minister Westerwelle in his policy statement to the German Bundestag on 15 December. Nevertheless, he reported that Afghanistan was in a better position than it was a year ago, and definitely better off than it had been when the international mission was launched ten years ago. Members of the German Armed Forces, as well as police officers, reconstruction workers and diplomats from Germany have all contributed to this improvement, the Minister stated.

He noted that 2011 had been a turning point for the international community’s policy on Afghanistan. The strategic consensus achieved at the Afghanistan Conference in Bonn will now, he said, be implemented by the international community step by step. “There will be no military solution, only a political one,” Westerwelle stressed. This was the reason, he continued, why we are supporting the process of reconciliation and reintegration within Afghanistan, a process that requires clear yardsticks and principles. These were agreed on at the Bonn Conference.

The peace process should be managed by the Afghans and should reflect the legitimate interests of all sections of the Afghan population – including women. Any peace settlement must endorse the existence of a sovereign, stable and united Afghanistan and guarantee the renunciation of violence, the breaking of all ties to international terrorism, and the recognition of the Afghan constitution, including basic human rights. The peace settlement must also have the support of the neighbouring states and the region.

Handing over responsibility for security

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle making his policy statement to the German Bundestag

In the Bundestag
© picture alliance / dpa

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Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle making his policy statement to the German Bundestag

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle making his policy statement to the German Bundestag

In the Bundestag

The transition – the process of handing over responsibility for security to the Afghans – began in July 2011. “Responsibility for almost half of the Afghan population will be in the hands of the Afghan security forces by February 2012,” Westerwelle stated. He noted that this was also a result of the considerable increase in training activities by the international community, especially since the London Afghanistan Conference of 2010.

All neighbouring states must cooperate if Afghanistan is to achieve stability. At the Istanbul Conference, agreement was reached on a process designed to bring greater economic and political integration to the region over the long term. In addition, the “New Silk Road” project was launched at the UN General Assembly in New York this September. This process builds on shared principles of security and stability in the region and a catalogue of confidence building measures to enhance cooperation.

The Foreign Minister emphasized that, at the Afghanistan Conference in Bonn, the international community had renewed its partnership with Afghanistan and laid a firm foundation for the “Transformation Decade” from 2015 to 2024. “We will not abandon the people of Afghanistan – not now and not after 2014.”

The European Union recently started negotiations with Afghanistan on a partnership agreement. The German Government would also like to conclude a bilateral partnership agreement with the country; negotiations are due to begin in 2012.

Mutual commitments

“The new partnership is not a one-way street,” Westerwelle stated. It rested, he said, on mutual commitments made by the international community and Afghanistan. The Afghan Government has undertaken to make improvements with respect to governance, combating corruption and developing the justice sector. The international community has in return pledged to remain engaged in Afghanistan for the long term. These civil and development policy commitments will be firmed up at a conference in Tokyo in July 2012.

Foreign Minister Westerwelle reported that development cooperation would play a key role in the future. He is convinced that “development and security are inextricably linked”. That’s why it is vital to get the Afghan economy going. International assistance for building up a competitive private sector will in his view be needed for a long time. There is a lot of potential in the commodities sector, which has so far barely been tapped.

Germany is the third-largest donor country when it comes to development cooperation with Afghanistan. 430 million euro has been made available in 2011 – almost twice as much as in the year before.

Progress report on the situation in Afghanistan

The second German Government progress report provided an “honest picture of the progress made and difficulties faced in Afghanistan,” Westerwelle continued. In his opinion, notwithstanding all the setbacks, the progress made could not be overlooked. A third of all school pupils today are girls, more than 80% of all Afghans have access to health care, and improvements have been made with respect to infrastructure and access to water.

On 14 December, the Federal Cabinet approved the progress report on the situation in Afghanistan. The report describes the current situation in the country, provides information on international involvement, and offers an outlook on upcoming events and possible developments. The report serves to inform the Bundestag and was prepared by the ministries involved in Afghanistan under the direction of the Special Representative of the Federal Government for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ambassador Michael Steiner.

The Afghan security forces now have 305,000 members and have thus almost reached their full strength. “Our key task now is to improve their capabilities,” Westerwelle stressed. He reported that the deterioration of the security situation from year to year had been stopped for now. But much still remained to be done – especially in the fields of governance and democracy. Corruption was also still a major barrier to development in the country.

Germany’s military engagement reached its zenith this year,” Westerwelle concluded. If the German Bundestag approved the Government’s motion, the number of Bundeswehr soldiers deployed in Afghanistan would be reduced to a maximum of 4900 from 1 February 2012. The Government’s aim is, he started, to further reduce the size of the German ISAF contingent to 4400 before the mandate expires, as part of the ongoing handover of responsibility for security – provided the situation so allows.

The Federal Cabinet adopted the draft of the new Afghanistan mandate on 14 December. The final decision will be taken by the Bundestag in January. The mandate is the first that provides for a reduction of the maximum number of Bundeswehr forces participating in the ISAF mission. From 2012, no more than 4900 soldiers are to be deployed in Afghanistan.

Last updated 15.12.2011

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