Policy statement by Guido Westerwelle on Germany’s engagement in Afghanistan after the London Conference before the German Bundestag

10.02.2010 - Speech

The devastating attacks of September 11, 2001 were not just an attack on the United States of America, they were an attack on the basic principles and liberal values of the international community.

The international community responded to this challenge with unparalleled solidarity. Germany also responded to the UN Security Council’s appeal, which identified the situation in Afghanistan as a threat to world peace. Today over forty countries are participating in the UN-mandated mission in Afghanistan.

Germany, like the international community, also demonstrated solidarity on the issue of whether to assume responsibility in Afghanistan.

It was the government of Gerhard Schröder and Joseph Fischer that first deployed the Bundeswehr to Afghanistan.

The government of Angela Merkel and Frank-Walter Steinmeier continued this mission.

Today I am asking you to give the current Federal Government your approval to continue the Bundeswehr’s participation in the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.

This mission, as part of ISAF, first and foremost serves the goal of ensuring our own security. Afghanistan can never again be allowed to become a safe haven for terrorists. We are also there, however, to fulfil our obligation towards our fellow human beings. Millions of men and women have placed their hopes in us.

In the eight years of our engagement in Afghanistan we have achieved a number of things:

We have helped ensure that, for the first time in decades, more and more people in Afghanistan have access to doctors and hospitals.

We have helped ensure that new schools were built. In Afghanistan today seven million children can attend school regularly – five times as many as during the Taliban’s reign of terror.

With water tanks, seeds and irrigation projects we have helped ensure that over 250,000 households in northern Afghanistan have the opportunity to earn a living in agriculture.

Not least, the Bundeswehr soldiers have made an important contribution to stabilizing the country.

This is also recognized by the large majority of the Afghan population.

However, an honest assessment shows that the results of our efforts so far have been mixed. Over the past year the security situation has further deteriorated. Afghanistan still supplies around 90% of the world’s opium market. Things in Afghanistan today are far from what we hoped for eight years ago.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier is right to say that “just more of the same” will not be enough to bring lasting stability to Afghanistan.

That is why from the beginning this coalition has worked for a fresh start in Afghanistan. This is not criticism of those who were responsible for Germany’s commitment before us. It is simply the necessary consequence of the lessons we have learned over the past few years.

The London Conference is a fresh start. Nearly seventy states, along with President Karzai’s government, decided in London that the time for a new strategy had come.

The success of London lies particularly in the mutual commitment of Afghanistan on the one hand and the international community on the other.

In preparation for London, the Afghan Government for the first time provided a very specific and verifiable outline of how it plans to achieve its goals in the areas of better governance, the rule of law, fighting corruption and reducing drug cultivation.

In return, the international community committed to intensify its efforts so that the Afghans can achieve the goals they have set for themselves in the foreseeable future.

To this end, we will bolster the reconstruction of Afghanistan, stimulate the economy and help the domestic reconciliation process to move forward. Additionally, we all agreed in London that we have to do more to establish self-sustaining security structures in order to develop a realistic prospect for withdrawal.

The goal we have set for our German engagement applies for the rest of the international community as well: we want to hand over responsibility in a responsible manner. “More of the same” is not an option. Simply leaving and turning a blind eye is not an option either.

It is important now to actually put the London decisions into practice. The Federal Chancellor presented Germany’s plan for doing this here in this House two weeks ago.

Afghanistan must work to achieve domestic reconciliation. This is primarily a task for the Afghans themselves. The international community will support them with a reintegration fund. During the conference Germany indicated that it would be willing to contribute up to 10 million euro annually to this fund.

The aim is to appeal to the followers whose obedience empowers the Taliban and other terrorists. We want to separate the moderates from the hard-core terrorists and fundamentalists. These moderates are young men without any prospects, who for the most part cannot read or write, who are prepared to take up arms for a few dollars. We want to give these people a peaceful, alternative way to earn a living in their villages. The core of the programme is therefore a training and employment package.

The Afghan Government and the international community will work closely to implement this programme and utilize the corresponding funds. A conference will be held in Kabul this spring to decide on the next steps.

The German Government will also intensify its efforts in the areas of economic and social development in northern Afghanistan and has set specific, verifiable goals in this regard:

We will expand rural development programmes so that by 2013 three million Afghans ought to have jobs and an income.

We will substantially expand our efforts to provide health care. We will build hospitals and provide them with better equipment in all four provinces in the area Germany is responsible for.

We will improve the transport infrastructure, thereby laying the foundation for economic growth and greater security. An additional 700 kilometres of roads that can be used year-round will connect rural areas to the cities and markets in their districts.

We will train more teachers and build more schools so that an additional 500,000 children can be educated. By now, girls account for a third of all pupils.

Overall the Federal Government wants to double civilian funding for Afghanistan.

I would like to thank Federal Minister Dirk Niebel who has been particularly committed to civilian reconstruction.

Self-sustaining security structures are the key to giving our soldiers a prospect for withdrawal. That is why in future we will do much more to train Afghan security forces.

Afghan leaders and the international community have agreed on a target of 300,000 Afghan security forces. This is key to enabling President Karzai to reach his goal of assuming full responsibility for security in Afghanistan by 2014.

Germany aims to provide basic and further training for some 5000 Afghan police officers annually over the next few years. In order to do this we want to increase the number of our police trainers to a total of 260. I am confident that, by coordinating with Germany’s federal states, it will be possible to meet this goal by the middle of the year.

I would like to thank Federal Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizière and the federal states for this important contribution.

Germany will focus its military engagement even more on training Afghan security forces. We will achieve this primarily by restructuring the existing contingent. Though we already have 4500 soldiers in Afghanistan, currently only 280 are responsible for training Afghan security forces. We are now enlarging the mandate by just 500 additional soldiers, but we are also increasing the number of men and women involved in providing training and protection to 1400.

Moreover the Federal Government is requesting to create a flexible reserve force of 350 additional soldiers. We hereby aim to ensure that German forces are able to respond appropriately to extraordinary situations. For example, it is already foreseeable that an increased number of troops will temporarily have to help provide security for the elections in September. We want to be prepared for situations like this. It is part of the responsibility we have towards our men and women in uniform.

The operations this reserve force takes part in will always be limited to a specific time period and will require involving the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Defence Committee.

This new mandate is part of the broader political approach for handing over responsibility we agreed on in London. I would like to thank Federal Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg for his constructive cooperation on drafting this new mandate.

If we want to achieve a responsible handover in the coming years, we have to intensify our efforts today. We are doing more in order to develop a clear prospect for withdrawal. In coordination with the Afghan Government and our international partners, we want to begin handing over responsibility for security in some regions to the Afghans at the start of next year. By the end of 2011 we hope to be far enough along that it will be possible to reduce our Bundeswehr contingent. And in 2014 we want to reach President Karzai’s goal of having Afghans assume full responsibility for their security throughout the entire country. This is a realistic perspective that we want to and will work towards. But it is not a specific withdrawal deadline. Setting one would be a mistake as it would only encourage the terrorists.

An honest assessment also means being frank about the reality in Afghanistan. The Federal Government considered the issue of how to evaluate the situation in northern Afghanistan with great care.

The intensity of the fighting against insurgents and the military nature of their organization have led us to the conclusion that the ISAF mission, also in northern Afghanistan, should be designated an armed conflict as defined under international humanitarian law.

Whether it is politically palatable or not, that is the reality. Whether we refer to it as such or not, that is the reality. We owe it to all those on the ground who are putting their lives on the line to call a spade a spade.

Applying this legal definition to the objective state of the ISAF mission affects our soldiers’ authority, ability to issue orders and how their actions are viewed from a prosecution perspective.

It does not affect the mandate we are asking you to approve.

It also does not affect the deployment of our police officers.

Our police officers have been and will continue to be deployed exclusively to northern Afghanistan and exclusively for training purposes. Before we deploy them it is imperative that we can ensure their security in light of the situation on the ground. Their well-being is our highest priority. Our police officers will only work in areas where the Bundeswehr can guarantee their security. This is something we have agreed on with the federal states.

Prior to the London Conference, the German Government presented a comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan. The core elements of our concept are reflected in the outcomes of the London conference.

If you take an unbiased look at what we achieved in London, you will recognize quite a bit that stems from proposals and critical questions raised here in this House. Parliament’s close involvement is very important to me. The conference is not only a success for the participating countries, not only a success for the German Government; it is a success for everyone in this House, from all parliamentary groups, who contributed to steering our commitment in a new direction. It is also your success.

I therefore ask you to resist the temptation to refrain from doing what is necessary and right. That would not be appropriate in light of the enormity of our task and the serious nature of our engagement.

Finally, allow me to thank the courageous men and women who are not intimidated by the serious risks in Afghanistan and who are doing a great job there. The civilian development workers, the federal and state police officers, the Federal Foreign Office staff and the brave men and women of the Bundeswehr all deserve our respect. On behalf of the Federal Government, I would like to thank them and their families sincerely. They deserve the confidence of the Federal Government and the Bundestag.

I would therefore like to ask you to approve the Federal Government’s request for the new version of the ISAF mandate.

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