The WDR press club of 4 July on the topic “The lessons of Afghanistan-What do we need the Bundeswehr and NATO for?“gave the audience some insights into developments and contexts that one would not have suspected in a mainstream medium. Here there were opportunities to look behind the usually communicated information. questions:
- Why does NATO need it?
- What can we learn from Bundeswehr operations like the one in Afghanistan?
On the website of the WDR-Presseclub the topic is announced like this:
“The deadliest and most dangerous military operation after the Second World War has ended. The Bundeswehr has quietly withdrawn the last soldiers from Afghanistan, the complete withdrawal of international troops is imminent. Countless people have died, billions have gone into reconstruction. Now the Taliban are again just outside Kabul. Was it all in vain? What does this commitment mean for the future tasks of the Bundeswehr?
The balance is disastrous. Far more than 100,000 civilians were killed, the US Army lost more than 2,400 soldiers, the Bundeswehr 59. Time for an honest balance, the Defense Minister Kramp-Karrenbauer has promised. The motive for NATO’s military action was initially retaliation for the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 in the United States. The federal government promised unconditional solidarity. The Taliban were expelled from Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan in 2011. The international troops remained committed to democracy, human rights and prosperity. Today, Afghanistan is, on paper, an Islamic republic with a democratic constitution, but the Taliban will probably have taken power in a few months and will turn the wheel back.”
This text already makes it clear that the programme designers are not primarily concerned with questions of international law, such as whether the actions of NATO and the Bundeswehr are in accordance with the UN Charter at all. Retribution and” unconditional solidarity " are not concepts of international law. And if the dominant powers of this earth replace international law with the injustice of the strongest, then the danger grows that this set of rules as the basis of an international peace order will be increasingly softened and devalued. Then violence remains as the final regulatory authority, in other words: Then the states that are capable of doing so will slap each other around the ears as long as that is still possible.
In the war in Afghanistan, there is the ISAF mandate, approved by the Security Council in December 2001, and the US"Anti-terrorist War” (OEF), which has no mandate under international law.
Since 2001, the Bundeswehr has deployed a total of 160,000 people in Afghanistan; the costs mentioned in the press club broadcast vary from about 12 billion to 18 billion euros. The ZDF documentary “The Cost of War” from 23.12.2020 calculates about 47 billion euros, about three times the official cost. The US cost is up to two trillion US dollars, one trillion is 1, 000 billion, one billion is 1, 000 million. To the costs are added the sums resulting from destruction and killings, also from the mining of large areas.
The US had declared war on terrorism less than a month after September 11, 2001. Two more months later, following the Petersberg Conference in Bonn, which did not involve all actors in the war, the UN Security Council gave free rein to “take measures” to avert a “threat to international peace and security.” For this purpose, states that are willing to do so should set up an “International Security Assistance Force” (ISAF) to carry out these tasks. The dividing lines between the “anti-terrorist war” not covered by the UN and the international law-compliant ISAF force, which does not include UN peacekeepers, were unclear. Nevertheless, the press club round was not interested in international law issues in their search for answers to the questions about the lessons of war.
In the press club discussion, journalist Sandra Petersmann described the outcome of the war after almost two decades as “devastating”. The goals originally issued were missed: Afghanistan should cease to be a backwater for terrorists, the military capabilities of the Taliban should be destroyed. The opposite has now happened.
The Taliban are stronger than ever, they are victors. Personally, I am pleased that Vietnam has once again existed, at least after decades of Western terror. Where we are with Vietnam, the Western terrorists also flee the country and leave it to themselves once again. The population was once again promised milk and green nature of which nothing remains in the end.
The former Bundeswehr officer Hasnain Kazim differentiated, there had been successes at first, but the Taliban had been underestimated, they turned out to be more professional than expected, so that the operation failed in the end.
The blogger Thomas Wiegold also came to the conclusion that the Afghanistan war failed all in all, the networked approach of connecting military with civilian forces did not work. The Bundeswehr is prepared for soldiers to suffer and die in wars and to be physically and mentally injured.
The freelance journalist Julia Weigelt confirms the mental problems and reports on a study by the Bundeswehr on the ‘post-traumatic stress syndrome’, which showed that 25 percent of soldiers come back with mental illnesses. But I also feel sorry for the people, the people who jump into the breach for the ideology of elitist pranksters.
Sandra Petersmann broadened the view of injured people by referring to the Afghan forces who had worked with NATO forces in various ways. If they want to exercise the right granted to them to apply for visas, e.g. for Germany, then many of them are dependent on using the dangerous land route to the contact point of the embassy in Kabul. They then need money for the flight to Germany, which many do not have. In the security vacuum that is becoming visible here, the risk of terror occupying new spaces is increasing.
Hasnain Kasim refused to talk to the Taliban because they are barbarians who cannot be talked to. Freelance journalist Julia Weigelt stressed that if there is no military solution, then you also have to talk to people you don’t want to talk to.
Sandra Petersmann pointed out that NATO has cooperated with war criminals, i.e. other barbarians, and fostered a culture of impunity; they have contributed to the suffering of the civilian population with drone attacks against villages. The thought of who is the enemy of my enemy is my friend, led human rights violators to the side of NATO. Some of them came to key positions of power in areas protected by NATO. The failure to work towards reconciliation was due to the fact that the victims did not come to the center of attention.
Julia Weigelt added that the goal of lasting peace will not be achieved if people are dehumanized as barbarians. She criticized that from the beginning it was a punishing action instead of peace.
Sandra Petersmann agreed with Ms. Weigelt, calling the government in Kabul corrupt and incapable of unifying interest groups. The population structure of the country with its various tribes is not depicted in the government. The Taliban have an easy game to make clear to the people: “Look at the corrupt in Kabul!”.
Thomas Wiegold explained the arrogance of the US by the fact that the Afghans asked for the purchase of Russian helicopters, since they can repair them. The US refused and is now withdrawing. For example, this can lead to replenishment problems; and soldiers without replenishment, according to Ms. Weigelt, have an increased motivation to overflow. The project to train the Armed forces has failed due to lack of sustainability.
Julia Weigelt pointed to a completely wrong priority setting in the use of funds: As in Mali, the promotion of the construction of material infrastructure is not a priority. Armed forces are unsuitable for this anyway. While the Bundeswehr consumes 500 million euros per year, development cooperation with 70 million euros does not even receive one seventh of the sum for the war. Sandra Petersmann added that the relationship in Afghanistan is even more blatant, the 18 billion she estimates for the war stands in contrast to a proportionately negligible sum for the construction.
Hasnain Kasim referred to shades of gray that relativize the picture, he mentioned schools, fountains, bridges and cell towers, but these are repeatedly destroyed by Taliban fighters. Julia Weigelt pointed to completely new moments of danger that the military is not able to solve: Global warming adds to poverty – if more and more regions in Africa with temperatures above 56 degrees Celsius become uninhabitable, even fences will no longer help.
Soldiers who have to process an assignment without experienced sense suffer a ‘moral injury’ (moral injury). It is easier to use soldiers to combat challenges because they obey orders. Other professions must be recruited, be they police officers, social workers or judges. Thus, the army has a role to play in regulating political problems that it cannot resolve. The only responsible strategy must address the causes of conflict.
This conclusion of a flagship program in an important German medium made important facts and connections clear-viewers I spoke to found that sensational, even if they were quite obvious truths. The striking thing is that these clear facts and logical conclusions must generally be missed in opinion-making.
This can lead to the militarisation of world politics spreading further and further, to the loss of the time that might remain to avert the ecological and social threats to the future; and it can lead to a difficult military situation slipping out of control and developing a dynamic that leads to a final inferno. The only responsible response to this danger is the interaction of all movements committed to the survival of humanity.