The country must be able to take care of its own safety: the new Inspector-General of the Bundeswehr (army), describes what the new strategy adopted in London would mean for the German deployment
The aim of the joint efforts of the international community is the long-term stabilization of Afghanistan. In the future no more danger should originate from Afghanistan. International terrorism should not be able to use Afghanistan as a base for terrorist attacks. Therefore, the stabilization of Afghanistan lies within the special interest of Germany.
Even eight years after the fall of al-Qaeda supporting radical Islamic Taliban regime, the Afghan government, despite numerous advances is not yet in a position where they can ensure the safety of its citizens and institutions. To that end, it needs our continued support. As a member of the United Nations, the European Union, NATO and as a partner to help rebuild Afghanistan’s security and infrastructure, Germany also contributes militarily.
Since the first Petersberg Conference on Afghanistan in December 2001, the international community has repeatedly confirmed its support for Afghanistan, while adapting to changing circumstances. The London Conference on Afghanistan on 28 January 2010 is part of this, and also marks a new approach under the motto "transfer of responsibility."
This new approach reflects the stated objective of the Afghan government to try and gradually take over full responsibility for their own security in the country over the next five years. The federal government explicitly supports this stated goal of President Karzai.
The federal government (germany) has decidedly influenced this new initiative which is further marked by the proposed realignment of the military contribution. Although this (military) is often the focus of public interest, it nevertheless represents only a supportive element that does not stand alone and is not an end in itself. Much more is embedded within the political strategy in Afghanistan of the federal government (germany) and the international community under the umbrella of the United Nations.
This strategy is based on the recognition that long-lasting, self-supporting stability can be achieved only with "networked" approach of civil and - where necessary - military resources. The latter frequently only creates the preconditions for the development of state institutions, and successful development projects. The "networked" approach has meanwhile become recognized as a principle of international crisis management.
The example of the Balkans demonstrates yet another important aspect. Concepts are not sufficient to bring about sustainable security. Its implementation (security) requires adequate human, material and financial resources as well as strategic patience. Because government (statehood) rarely develops overnight, even with support. In general, the process of becoming a state lasts one to two decades, and the process is often accompanied by internal power struggles and clashes over decisions on the future social structure.
In light of this, it is hardly surprising that, despite eight years of engagement by the international community, the process of becoming a state is not yet finished. In contrast to the occasional public perception, developmental aid has certainly borne some fruit. Especially in northern Afghanistan, we have shown considerable success of our commitment within basic education, infrastructure and institution-building. The Bundeswehr (army) has made a significant contribution. This progress is felt by many Afghans, as recent polls make clear.
Nonetheless, even in northern Afghanistan we cannot just further tread this same path. Progress is not sufficient for a realistic prospect of a complete "hand-over of responsibility" and thus for a withdrawal of our military forces within the timeframe the sought by the Afghan government period. This requires an effort which should be made now, to create the decisive impulse for the strengthening of the Afghan political system.
Such an impulse can not proceed solely by an increase in the Bundeswehr. On the contrary: It has to be primarily a matter of filling in the prevalent vacuum of state authority that still exists in parts of the country, while improving rural development and education and creating social and economic infrastructures to better the livelihoods of the Afghan population thereby increasing their prospects for a better future. To this end Germany wants to double its civilian intervention in Afghanistan.
Without an improvement in the security however, this goal is impossible to achieve. But in the end only Afghans can provide for their own sustainable security. Therefore, two things must happen: First, the international community must contribute to increased efforts to protect these people, as long as the Afghan government is not to do this itself. Second, and parallel to the aforementioned, Afghan police and army training and bolstering must be speeded up, so that - as intended – these can take over this task within the next five years.
So one the one hand it is about protecting the people, while on the other it’s about training the Afghan security forces. These are also the central elements of the changed operational command of NATO, based on the assessment made in August of last year by the commander of ISAF troops. The focus is no longer primarily the fight against the Taliban, but rather to protect the public from their excesses; civil construction and the capacity development Afghan security forces have become paramount.
Both tasks will no longer be separated from each other, the transition is fluent. Training, guidance and mentoring of Afghan security forces are to occur simultaneously within the same structures and under the same standards.
The new partnering concept of NATO takes this into due account. It leaves enough room for a flexible implementation to meet the needs of the respective regional conditions while taking into account the possibilities and limits of all ISAF nations. The military leader on the ground faced with in his responsibility for the soldiers entrusted is constantly making the decision on mode of implementation and depth of integration of the Afghan security forces.
The army here faces new challenges in the training of soldiers and their equipment. But not only that. The recent reorganization of our army quota alone, is not sufficient to handle the changing focus of tasks and the intention of speeding up building of the Afghan police and army. After thorough analysis of future needs, the Federal Government has therefore come to believe that additional officers are needed as well as additional soldiers. The planned increase in staff ceiling of the ISAF mandate by 850 soldiers (500 reinforcement plus 350 reserves) represents not only the military needs but also the expectations of our partners in ISAF Northern Region. As a leading nation in the implementation of the new approach, we bear responsibility for meeting their expectations. The additional forces provide everything ranging from a mobile reserve to assist in emergency situations, to air evacuation and medical care of wounded.
Reclassification and the help of additional soldiers should significantly increase the number of those employed in the fields of education and protection, increasing from 280 currently to 1400. This is accompanied by an increased presence in the area, together with the Afghan security forces, to permanently prevent the return of the insurgents and give the local population a sense of security. Our own forces approach and the extension of the space (occupied by forces -dg) shall be designed in such a way that the risk of potential attacks is made incalculable/unpredictable for the attacker. In addition, the Bundeswehr will ensure the necessary protection for police trainers, supported by deployment of military police.
Current priorities, however, is the reclassification and increase of the already available units- those in training and those in protection-battalions. The idea is that in the future, every German soldier in these organizations, regardless of his rank, becomes a trainer and mentor for an Afghan soldier. Exercising together, operating together and, whenever necessary, fighting together, will determine the daily routine of training and protection of our battalions. Beyond classical training in the classroom and practical exercises this new approach offers Afghan soldiers the valuable guidance and experience to guarantee success in the (ongoing) task. More and more, Afghans will reach a position where they can provide for their safety.
The geographic size relative to the limited availability of northern Afghanistan's own forces and Afghan security forces does not allow for forces to be everywhere at once. This is not even necessary. Rather, it is important to strengthen its presence in those areas where it is urgently needed. The ISAF has identified this with the assistance of our German commander in ISAF Regional Command North in Mazar-i-Sharif, a limited number of districts where our presence, shoulder to shoulder with the Afghan security forces, would have the greatest effect in improving the security situation. We intend to orient ourselves to the recomendations in the future conduction of operations. In the implementation, we should trust our soldiers on the ground and support them in their difficult tasks.
There is neither an easy (german version wrote ‘comfortable’, haa) nor a safe way to stabilize Afghanistan. The London conference however set a turning mark supported by clear objectives. The gradual takeover of security responsibility by Afghans will enable a gradual reduction of the international community military presence, including the bundeswehr (german army).
Nevertheless, setting an end date (timeline for withdrawal) would not contribute to the goal - The relationship between civil construction and adequate security can not be dissolved. Both are dependent upon one another. A gradual reduction of military presence can only be done in interaction with progress in civil construction. Measures of the reduction should therefore not be fixed dates on the calendar, but landmarks that once reached can flow into the next step, including reducing military presence. It may be that not all objectives can be achieved on time. But another approach, which focuses not on actual progress made, could involve risks for the efforts and sacrifices rendered towards a stable Afghanistan. No one could possibly want that.
The author has been since 21 January, General Inspector of the Bundeswehr. Previously, he was, inter alia, the commanding general of the 1st German-Dutch Corps and Chief of Staff of the ISAF in Afghanistan under the command of U.S. General Stanley A. McChrystal.