Ecumenical News International

Church peace commissioner calls for clear Bundeswehr mandate in Afghanistan

December 28, 2011

Bremen (epd). The new mandate for Bundeswehr engagement in Afghanistan must, according to church peace commissioner Renke Brahms, have clear objectives. "Vague statements about the withdrawal of combat troops such as 'if possible' give extra weight to voices that see foreign troops as occupation forces," the official of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) said. In January the Bundestag will vote on extending the mandate for one year.

Brahms was very critical of the USA's announced intention to set up permanent military bases in Afghanistan. "We must set as our goal the capability of Afghans to take charge of their own security."

In 2012, after ten years in the Hindu Kush, the new mandate for the Bundeswehr will mark a turning point by lowering the troop ceiling for the first time. This will ring in the start of the pullout of German troops from Afghanistan. The first step will be a reduction of the number of personnel by 100 to 4,900 soldiers. The flexible reserve force of 350 men is to be eliminated. By the beginning of 2013, the ceiling will drop to 4,400. However, in mid-December the expression used in the parliamentary debates was "if the security situation allows."

Foreign minister Guido Westerwelle (FDP) appealed to MPs to approve several years of Afghan reconstruction relief aid. Brahms commented this by saying that the "transition decade" thus called for would not suffice. "Ten years is probably the minimum period for a solid, civil engagement," said the theologian, who is also the spiritual head of the Evangelical Church of Bremen.

Moreover, for the time being, the proposed long-term relief assistance exists only on paper. "It is important how this is fleshed out at the Tokyo donors' conference in July. Every euro, every dollar that goes to civilian reconstruction is meaningful." Brahms advised involving in the transition a greater number of smaller relief organizations with close ties to civil society in Afghanistan.

They have connections at the remote regional and local levels; their involvement gets people working and ensures transparency." The key question is who in the future will take over the role of the "honest broker"? "That would be a classical task for the EU and for Germany, too, since Germans in Afghanistan are still highly regarded. One thing is perfectly clear: without the neighboring states, there can be no solution in Hindu Kush.

December 28, 2011



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