The terrorist group calling itself Islamic State (IS) has killed, tortured and enslaved thousands of people in Iraq and Syria. It is now on the retreat. Speaking in the German Bundestag today, Foreign Minister Steinmeier called for an extension to the Bundeswehr mandate in the fight against IS.
Most of the news from the region is dominated by the horrific images coming out of Aleppo. As Foreign Minister Steinmeier underscored at the start of his Bundestag speech, the top priority is to get aid supplies to the people in the besieged city. This had been made clear to Russia’s President Putin, he said, during talks in Berlin that were “less than easy”. “This insanity cannot and must not continue,” Steinmeier said, “It has to stop!”
Though the situation in Syria is difficult, significant advances have been made in the fight against the terrorists of IS in Iraq. Three days ago, the Iraqi army and its allies started the liberation of Mosul, the last major city in Iraq still under the brutal control of IS. It is in part thanks to the comprehensive cooperation of the international community that this terrorist group, which controlled vast swathes of Iraq and Syria for years, has now been driven so far back. Sixty-seven countries and three international organisations joined together to form the Global Coalition to Counter IS.
Depriving the terrorists of territory
Germany is playing its part too. The Bundeswehr is involved with protecting an aircraft carrier and providing air-to-air refuelling as well as military reconnaissance. By extending the mandate, Germany would be helping to deprive the terrorist group of territory once and for all. “When Mosul falls, IS will no longer have any cohesive piece of territory worth mentioning,” Steinmeier told his fellow Members of the Bundestag. It was important now, the Foreign Minister went on, to plan ahead for the day after liberation.
Military involvement only one part of the strategy
The Bundeswehr’s involvement is only one element of Germany’s strategy to promote a stable future for Iraq. If the body politic and state structures in Iraq are to regain strength, people need to be able to return to the areas formerly occupied by IS. Security, humanitarian assistance and economic prospects are crucial factors here.
Prospects for the people of Mosul
Steinmeier intends to build on past experience in this area. “After Tikrit was liberated, we ensured that people quickly regained access to water and electricity as well as at least a basis level of health care. That meant more than 90% of the city’s inhabitants were able to return to the homes,” Steinmeier told the Bundestag.
Germany is the world’s top provider of humanitarian aid for Iraq; it has made an additional 35 million euros available for Mosul. Germany has also created a Mosul Stabilisation Council for the most important forces on the ground to plan the city’s reconstruction together.