Future of Germany’s foreign missions?

Without a new coalition, Germany’s military operations abroad could find themselves with no formal mandate by January … unless the current government persuades the newly elected Bundestag to extend these operations for three months without modifying their scope.

Heavy transport helicopter CH-53G during an exercise near Mazar-e-Sharif (Credit: Bundeswehr / Lars Koch)

This is one of the unexpected consequences of the crisis created by the result of Germany’s federal elections on 24 September which saw Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CSU / CDU alliance winning but without the support of her traditional allies, the Social Democrats of the SPD. The message underlying the military operations announcement is very clear: Merkel, who is now negotiating with those who used to be her opponents, is not ready to form a new government, according to German weekly Der Spiegel in its edition dated 28 September.

According to Merkel, there will be no government formed by December when the extension of the mandates has traditionally been approved by the Bundestag. Faced with an almost inevitable paralysis, the government considers that it will not be possible to decide on the future of the foreign operations (in Afghanistan and the Middle East) before April 2018, and has therefore insisted that the two be extended without amendment until the end of March.

For the time being, 980 German soldiers are deployed in Afghanistan as part of Operation Resolute Support. Their mission is to train the local armed forces. Following the U.S. announcement in late August that it was increasing its contingent operating in Afghanistan, German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen pleaded in favour of sending 400 additional Germany troops. In vain, the German foreign affairs ministry quickly countering the suggestion in light of the deteriorating security situation.

The Bundeswehr is also part of the international coalition fighting Daesh in Syria and Iraq. However, following the deterioration of diplomatic relations between Germany and Turkey, the Tornado ECR combat aircraft and the 260 German soldiers, previously based in Incirlik (southern Turkey), will now operate from Jordan. Contrary to what it has requested for Afghanistan, the Bundeswehr has asked to cut the number of its aircraft deployed there from six to four.