On Thursday (29 January), the German Bundestag approved Germany’s participation in a training mission for Iraqi armed forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters. Up to 100 Bundeswehr soldiers will take part in the mission. The German cabinet had already approved the mission in December 2014 at the suggestion of Foreign Minister Frank‑Walter Steinmeier and Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen.
Large majority in favour of the training mission
The situation in Iraq and Syria remains difficult. The Islamist terrorist militia ISIS is putting huge military pressure on both countries. The people of the region, above all in northern Iraq and Syria, have been suffering under the appalling violence perpetrated by ISIS since early summer. Many people were killed, hundreds of thousands forced to flee their homes. Most under threat are members of religious minorities such as Yazidis and Christians.
It was in this context that the German Bundestag approved a training mission for northern Iraq on Thursday. The vote was carried by a large majority. The proposal had been jointly put forward in the German cabinet by Foreign Minister Frank‑Walter Steinmeier and Defence Minister von der Leyen in December, where it was approved. The training mission will involve sending up to 100 Bundeswehr servicemen and women to northern Iraq, where they will train the security forces of the Government of the Region of Kurdistan-Iraq and Iraqi armed forces, thus preparing them better for the fight against ISIS.
Mission is “justifiable and responsible in every respect”
After the cabinet decision in December, Foreign Minister Steinmeier underlined that this was not a combat mission. He said the training mission would not only support those fighting ISIS on the ground, but would also be “justifiable and responsible in every respect” and avoid any type of recklessness. He added that if the security situation changed on the ground, the decision could be “revoked”.
Defence Minister von der Leyen agreed with the comments made by Steinmeier, adding that along with other countries – in particular Italy, the Netherlands and Scandinavian partners – Germany would provide the training courses in northern Iraq. Alongside basic training, the main focus would be on the medical corps, mine clearance, leadership and tactics.
Germany’s support: supplying arms and providing humanitarian aid
At the end of August 2014, the German Government responded to a request from the Iraqi side and Kurdish-Iraqi forces and gave its approval for the Peshmerga fighters to be supported through the provision of military equipment and weapons. Germany is providing support within the framework of the international alliance against terror. The alliance currently comprises more than 60 countries and provides military and humanitarian aid in the fight against ISIS.
In addition to this, Germany has been continuously providing humanitarian aid for people in need, above all for refugees from the Region of Kurdistan-Iraq. Since summer 2014, both Foreign Minister Frank‑Walter Steinmeier and the Federal Government’s Human Rights Commissioner Christoph Strässer have visited the region several times in order to gain an insight into the situation and the requirements. In light of the winter, the Federal Foreign Office increased its humanitarian aid, most recently in December 2014. Germany provided around 100 million euros in humanitarian aid and structural development assistance in 2014, thus making it the third-largest donor as regards internally displaced persons and refugees in Iraq during this period.