Debate about the use of the Bundeswehr: Why Mali is causing a dispute again

Status: 03/02/2023 4:16 p.m

The federal government wants to extend the Mali mandate again until May 2024 and then withdraw it. So far, the decision has been supported by a large majority. But it begins to crumble.

By Uli Hauck, ARD Capital Studio

Last November, Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and then Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht reached a compromise: the Bundeswehr mandate for Mali is to be extended by a year until May 2024 – then it will be over.

According to the Ministry of Defence, this timetable continues to apply. The federal government has decided to end German participation in MINUSMA. “We are currently in the planning process for the structured phase-out mandate,” said a spokeswoman.

Doubts in the Bundestag

For this phase-out mandate, however, the government needs the approval of the Bundestag. And here the doubts grow. Because German politicians were amazed when the Malian military junta openly sided with Russia at the United Nations in New York last Friday.

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov had previously traveled to the Malian capital of Bamako and used his influence. The military rulers there rely on Russian weapons and Russian Wagner mercenaries and less on the approximately 1,200 Bundeswehr soldiers.

The SPD defense politician Joe Weingarten questions the sense of the Bundeswehr’s largest foreign mission. He’s for an early withdrawal. “Mali’s voting behavior is one facet, but other things bother me more. The Malian government takes a very uncooperative attitude towards our soldiers. Basically, I have my doubts about agreeing to a mission where neither the task nor the available funds are conclusive are settled.”

Kiesewetter: “No more justification at all”

So far, the SPD, FDP and Greens have stood, but also the Union for the Mali mission. But the broad majority in the Bundestag is crumbling. In an application, the CDU and CSU are demanding the deduction by the end of the year. The CDU MP Roderich Kiesewetter cites several reasons for this: Mali is supported by Russia and supports Russia. The German troops are also limited in their ability to act on the ground. “The German soldiers no longer see any point in their activities because there is no longer any justification for the intended purpose.”

Out of Mali in an orderly manner by the end of the year and not only in May 2024: SPD defense politician Weingarten considers the union proposal to be viable. “It’s also clear to me that we can’t withdraw head over heels. That’s not possible for logistical and security reasons. But if we could agree to withdraw this year, I think that would be a sensible solution.”

Will the government stick to its line?

But many traffic light foreign politicians, like Weingarten’s SPD party friend Nils Schmid, are – despite the difficult conditions – in favor of extending the UN deployment of the Bundeswehr until May 2024: “There are defense politicians within the governing coalition who are very skeptical about the MINUSMA mandate look. Because the freedom of movement of the MINUSMA soldiers has been restricted again and again. But the line is and remains clear, Chancellor, Foreign Minister Baerbock, then Defense Minister Lambrecht have reached a political agreement and we should now implement that.”

Lambrecht’s successor, Boris Pistorius, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung at the end of January that under the current conditions it made “no sense at all” to stay in Mali until May 2024. It’s a “waste of time and money”. The Mali mission remains controversial even in the government.

Discussions in the SPD about the Mali mission of the Bundeswehr

Uli Hauck, ARD Berlin, 03/02/2023 09:17 a.m

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