Germany should make its military forces “available” for another operation in Afghanistan to stop the Taliban from conquering it, the Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs Committee head said. His fellow MPs did not share the sentiment.
US President Joe Biden should stop America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, Norbert Roettgen, the head of the German parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, told the German FAZ newspaper on Sunday. Roettgen said he was concerned about the prospects of Taliban militants taking control of Afghanistan by force, if left undeterred in the wake of the US pullout.
“This drama is looming. It is not [gone] that far yet. It is up to us… to stop this,” Roettgen said, adding that “our own security” and “responsibility for the majority of Afghans” demand it. The MP also said the ongoing US pullout, which is expected to be completed by early September, could be the “the first major policy disaster” for Biden.
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Roettgen argued that the Taliban must be prevented from seizing all major cities in Afghanistan before winter sets in, saying that while the militants have always been able to conquer rural areas, if bigger towns and cities fell to them, there is a risk they could take over the whole country.
He hinted that the best way to avoid creating such a “militarily one-sided” reality, was, apparently, another intervention.
“If there are military capacities of the Europeans, including those of the Germans, that are needed now, then we should make them available,” he said, adding that European security would be “even more threatened than that of the United States” if there was a resurgence of Al Qaeda in conjunction with the Taliban.
Other German parliamentarians clearly did not share Roettgen’s alarmist sentiment. Johann Wadephul, the deputy head of the conservative Union parliamentary group – the one Roettgen himself belongs to – told Germany’s dpa news agency that he sees no reason for another intervention.
“The Bundeswehr [Afghanistan] mission was ended at NATO level,” he said, referring to Germany’s Armed Forces. “I see neither a political nor a military starting point for a new decision on deployment.”
Wadephul added, however, that Germany’s forces could stay in Afghanistan longer than those of the US anyway, since the current Bundestag mandate warrants their presence on Afghan soil until at least January 2022.
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Others were more critical in their response to Roettgen’s ideas. Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, a defense-policy spokeswoman from the Free Democratic Party’s parliamentary group, said that such suggestions were exactly what led to the previous invasions in the first place.
“We would be back in 2002 with suggestions from … Roettgen. That’s how it all started,” she said, adding that “now, it is time for diplomacy.”
Meanwhile, former Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer believes German troops’ presence on the ground would barely make any difference. He told journalists on Monday that the presence of the German troops near the Afghan city of Kunduz would hardly have stopped it from falling into the Taliban’s hands.
That “could not be prevented by us,” he said. A large German military base was previously located near the city, which was recently seized by the militants. The Afghan army was reportedly still clinging onto the airport in Kunduz on Sunday when Taliban overran the rest of the city.
Though she did not mention him by name, Germany’s Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer also criticized Roettgen’s proposal on Monday.
“Those, who now request another intervention in Afghanistan by the Bundeswehr, must ask themselves a question: with what goal? What strategy? Which partners?” she wrote, in a lengthy series of tweets.
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“Anyone who wants to hand the Taliban an ultimate defeat would have to conduct a very tough and long combat mission,” she said, adding that such a person should be ready and willing to put the “lives of many of our soldiers at risk.”
The Taliban seized control over six provincial capitals in Afghanistan over the recent weeks as it continues its rapid military advance in the wake of the US withdrawal. The militant group claims to have secured 85% of the Afghan territory – something Afghan officials dispute, claiming the figure is greatly exaggerated by the group.
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