Shortly before the end of his term in office, US President Trump wants to withdraw more soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq. The federal government warns against rushing. What does this mean for the Bundeswehr?
By Kai Küstner, ARD capital studio
Even in the last weeks of his term of office, US President Trump does not show any consideration for his allies, once again he presents the Germans with a fait accompli: The current president wants to reduce the number of US soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq to 2,500 by mid-January . The federal government reacted accordingly to this announcement. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warns that what has been achieved should not be jeopardized by hasty actions: “That is why we are particularly concerned about what the US announcement could mean for the progress of the peace talks in Afghanistan.”
Maas fears “additional hurdles”
The Foreign Office fears that as the number of troops dwindles, so does the pressure on the Taliban extremists to move around the negotiating table. Talks between the Islamists and the Afghan government in Doha had recently started: “Without necessity we shouldn’t create additional hurdles that a hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan would certainly result in,” warns Maas.
In any case, the federal government must now first sound out what the step of the outgoing US president, which was obviously not previously announced in Berlin, means for the Bundeswehr. What is certain is that the German soldiers urgently need the support of the Americans in northern Afghanistan. “We are trying to find out, also in conjunction with our partners at NATO, what this means in concrete terms for the capabilities on the ground,” explains Arne Collatz, spokesman for the Ministry of Defense.
German soldiers’ security in danger
In concrete terms, this formulation hides the following: If the USA no longer provides air support with fighter jets in an emergency, the safety of German soldiers in Afghanistan can no longer be guaranteed. Then a deduction would be inevitable. Therefore, the crucial question is which material the withdrawing US soldiers will take home with them – and who will be the ones who will stay: “If there are 2,500 medical personnel, it will not be possible to carry out the assignment,” formulated the ministry spokesman exaggerated on request.
What is certain is that the Bundeswehr has been making provisions for a possible withdrawal by the end of April next year for months. This date appears in an agreement between the US and the radical Islamic Taliban, but it is conditional. A NATO decision is still pending.
As the ARD capital studio reported, the Bundeswehr is already represented in northern Afghanistan with around 100 logistics experts who are responsible for the return of material. And they also check what can remain on site. “Aggressive housekeeping” – for example: active mucking out – is what the military call it. It is an expert number that can quickly grow to 150. In any case, the troops now have to plan for different scenarios. Tobias Lindner, Member of the Green Party, insists on this: “I expect that precautions will be taken now if a withdrawal should be carried out more quickly not at the end of April but in the coming months.”
Trump shows no consideration
A withdrawal by mid-January, however, would indeed be a Herculean logistical task. Donald Trump poses real challenges for those who should actually be his allies, even in the last few meters. “I also don’t want any pictures of Bundeswehr soldiers fleeing the country,” says Lindner ARD capital studio. Indeed, these would be images that one would definitely want to avoid in the Bundeswehr. After almost two decades of service in the Hindu Kush.