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“We are not prepared for international crisis management”: What the commission of inquiry on the German mission in Afghanistan can do

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Dealing with Afghanistan – with the hasty withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan, the call for a review of Germany’s involvement became louder. As a result, the German Bundestag set up two bodies: a parliamentary committee of inquiry and an inquiry commission.

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Both bodies differ fundamentally in terms of their mandate, working methods, content and goals. While the committee of inquiry is primarily tasked with reviewing the chaotic processes involved in the troop withdrawal in August 2021, the commission of inquiry is tasked with drawing lessons for the networked approach from the experiences of the multinational Afghanistan mission from 2001 to 2021.

It is the first of its kind. Never before has a commission of inquiry dealt with questions of foreign and security policy in Germany. Within two years, it should draw lessons and develop recommendations for the future of the so-called networked approach using the example of Germany’s 20-year commitment to the Hindu Kush. This must also focus on suggestions for improving parliamentary support.

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It is often assumed that the commission of inquiry is about who bears responsibility for the much-described “failure in the Hindu Kush”, or even about determining which chancellor or minister with which party book was responsible for leadership, in order to derive blame from this. This is wrong, however, and in particular is not covered by the Bundestag’s decision to appoint a new member.

The work of the 24 members, twelve of whom are proven experts from science, the military, development cooperation and peace research, will put the networked actions of civil-military actors to the test on the basis of a comprehensive evaluation.

Deficits in structures are to be uncovered on a purely fact-based basis, key questions relating to networking are to be clarified and recommendations are to be developed on the basis of a scientific and political evaluation.

The “Team Science” – according to the self-image of the consensus committee – has two years to do this. The working methods, internal structure and experts are intended to ensure that the Enquete Commission is kept free from party politicization. The committee has the unique opportunity to play a decisive role in shaping Germany’s networked approach.

The White Paper reveals fundamental shortcomings

Great Britain and the Nordic countries have been doing this for some time to ensure social resilience and political independence. The Action Plan for Civilian Crisis Prevention, Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding (2004) and the White Paper on German Security Policy and on the Future of the Federal Armed Forces (2006), which are considered guiding documents, show the shortcomings: A lack of cross-departmental coordination has become a stumbling block for interministerial action. There is a lack of common situation reports, strategies and political leadership.

Getting ahead of the wave takes more than concepts and ad hoc collaboration. An overarching security strategy is needed that is consistently implemented and becomes an integral part of German security policy action. There is no getting around the establishment of a National Security Council, which has been discussed time and again for around 20 years.

The mission in Afghanistan makes it painfully clear to us, not only in the diplomatic, military, police, humanitarian and development-related dimensions, that we are not prepared for international crisis management. Rather, it shows that the Bundestag debates, which far too often mutated into mere rituals, on the occasion of the annual extension of foreign mandates simply do not live up to Parliament’s proud claim to commission a parliamentary army with the Bundeswehr.

Parliament must take its responsibility into account by continuously monitoring, analyzing, evaluating and, if necessary, adapting the development of foreign missions.

One possibility for performing this task is a parliamentary body made up of politicians from the fields of foreign affairs, defence, domestic affairs, development cooperation, intelligence services and external experts.

The deployment realities of the Bundeswehr are not shown

Because the structure of the committee work of the Bundestag, which essentially takes place separately, no longer reflects the security policy operational realities of the Bundeswehr and those of the civilian actors.

The commission of inquiry “Lessons from Afghanistan” arouses many expectations. It will disappoint those who seek the answer to personal accountability and an Afghan perspective in the final report.

It will be a systematic, cross-departmental assessment that has to face empirical and methodological challenges and makes a decisive contribution to the reform of foreign and security policy at both the legislative and executive levels.

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Source: Tagesspiegel

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