NAfter months of disagreement about the future of the Mali mission, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) and Defense Minister Lambrecht (SPD) have agreed on a compromise. It provides for both a stay and a withdrawal. Accordingly, the mission as part of the UN mission MINUSMA should initially continue, but then end in May 2024. To do this, the Bundestag mandate would have to be extended again.
Since the Union had recently pleaded for an exit, broad approval for this in Parliament should not be guaranteed from the outset. The defense politician Henning Otte (CDU) spoke on Tuesday of an “uncoordinated and militarily unprepared” decision that endangered the security of the soldiers. The defense minister and parts of the SPD parliamentary group were also in favor of a speedy withdrawal, but not in a hurry, as was the case with Afghanistan. They would have liked to have brought the soldiers home over the coming months by the end of May 2023.
The reason lies not only in the widely characterized as unsuccessful, at the same time high-risk mission. In addition, the Bundeswehr had been suffering for months from a wide range of harassment and arrogance by the Malian putschist government, which the Federal Foreign Office was always able to portray as not so bad. This did not change when soldiers were not allowed to travel home for weeks and were effectively held hostage by the colonels in Bamako.
Zorn had to cancel the trip
Again and again and for weeks, Bundeswehr reconnaissance missions have been made impossible, for example by flight bans for drones or by preventing wounded and injured soldiers from being flown out for medical care. The mission is further complicated by the almost serial withdrawal of other western states from Mali, including France, Great Britain and soon the Netherlands.
In addition, for a long time neither the de facto head of state Assimi Goïta nor the defense minister was available for the German defense minister to talk about the difficulties. Inspector General Eberhard Zorn recently had to cancel a trip to Mali to see the German contingent after the Malian side had asked him at short notice to go to the country’s embassy for a visa. Zorn had not wanted to get involved in this procedure, which was unusual in terms of protocol.
The engagement in the Sahel should not end with the gradual withdrawal of the Bundeswehr from the UN mission MINUSMA, the Bundeswehr would remain engaged in neighboring Niger after a withdrawal from Mali. After a joint meeting with Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), Baerbock and Lambrecht informed the representatives of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Defense Committee on Tuesday. The Federal Foreign Office had always advocated a continuation of the Bundeswehr’s commitment within MINUSMA.
Last spring, Baerbock traveled to Bamako and to the main stationing location of the German reconnaissance officers at Gao to get his own picture of the situation. She then described her impressions to the Bundestag and argued that the safety of the population from the threat of criminal and Islamist terrorist groups was the most important reason for deploying the Bundeswehr as part of the UN mission.
Use is intended to show the presence of the West
Baerbock said at the time that security in Germany was also at stake, “because we don’t want areas of retreat for internationally networked terrorist organizations, for organized crime, to be created in the Sahel.” Coupled with the security argument is always the effect of not creating any further reasons for increased migration from the countries south of the Sahara, but on the contrary reducing the causes of migration as much as possible.