On 20 February the German Bundestag extended for the last time the mandate of the Bundeswehr contingent serving with the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. After twelve years the ISAF mission there will terminate at the end of 2014. A total of 498 members of the Bundestag voted in favour of the Government’s motion and 84 against; there were 17 abstentions.
The new mandate cuts the maximum strength of the Bundeswehr contingent in Afghanistan from 4,400 to 3,300. The mandate of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF) runs out at the end of 2014. On 13 January Foreign Minister Steinmeier issued the following statement in the Bundestag in this connection: “This is the last time we vote on extending the ISAF mandate for Afghanistan. After twelve years the Bundeswehr’s longest, toughest and in terms of casualties costliest combat mission terminates at the end of the year.”
Taking stock during the Bundestag debate of what the mission had accomplished in the course of more than a decade, Steinmeier pointed out that many of the idealistic goals originally agreed at the Bonn International Conference on Afghanistan had not been achieved. “However,” he continued, “Afghanistan is at any rate no longer the principal training ground for international Islamist terrorism.”
Afghanistan taking over responsibility
As agreed at the Lisbon NATO summit in 2010, by the end of 2014 Afghan security forces will have gradually assumed full responsibility for security throughout the country. Right now they are already responsible for the security of 90% of the population. Foreign Minister Steinmeier explained that 2014 will be a year of decision for Afghanistan: “The international forces will end their combat mission, a new president will be elected and by the end of the year Afghanistan will have full responsibility for security.”
Germany to remain engaged
Even when the Afghans have taken over full responsibility for security, Germany and the international community will remain engaged there, advising, training and supporting the country’s security forces. As from 2015, Germany has pledged some 150 million euros a year in funding for the Afghan National Security Forces.
Our engagement in the country is increasingly of a non-military nature. Germany will continue to provide up to 430 million euros a year in civilian reconstruction assistance.