More Military in Mali as German Defense Minister Pledges Increased Involvement

In the debate regarding an increased involvement of Germany’s Bundeswehr, Defense Minister Kramp-Karrenbauer has proposed a first potential destination.

According to Kramp-Karrenbauer, the Bundeswehr’s current status allows for new missions abroad at this stage. “We would be able today to take on additional foreign assignments,” she said on Monday during a visit to an Airborne Brigade. However, realistically the Bundeswehr would need to 2031 carry ten percent of NATO’s military burden, a goal Kramp-Karrenbauer expressed in previews weeks. To accomplish this goal, she has pledged that Germany will gradually increase its defense budget in the meantime. By 2031, Germany should then have reached the agreed-upon two percent of its GDP on military spending.

Kramp-Karrenbauer’s plan now is based on France’s desire to “broaden the fight against terrorism” in West African Mali. The actual counterterrorism operation there was “currently conducted solely by France”, while the Bundeswehr, who is also present, has only been training domestic military personal.  Nonetheless, the situation there was “also with regard to the local armed forces, the Malian forces and others, not an easy one,” Kramp-Karrenbauer stated. In order to extend the Bundeswehr’s mandate in the region, she will seek the Bundestag’s approval (as under German law Germany’s army can only be deployed if parliament votes in favor of it).

While Kramp-Karrenbauer says there has not been a direct request by the French, she was nonetheless cognizant that “we must be prepared for our ally and our partners to respond to such concerns faster.”

Regarding the criticism of the Parliamentary Commissioner of the Armed Forces Hans-Peter Bartels, according to which the army was lacking equipment and staff for major military tasks she responded: “We know that we have to do more, but we are on the way.”

The Airborne Brigade AKK paid a visit consists a total of around 4,100 soldiers, in which all the Bundeswehr paratroopers are united, was “proof that we are in a position to conduct such missions”. The paratroopers were a “very special group” who had been utilized in the past to react quickly, for example, in evacuations “where it is important to react swiftly.”

Kramp-Karrenbauer’s did not stop her tour there. Three other facilities followed and it a Defense Minister, who talks to the soldiers and lays out a new vision that is not only a refreshing sight but desperately needed. Mali marks a good starting point for this paradigm shift.

It has been seven years since Tuareg rebels and Islamist terrorist groups in north and central Mali attempted to topple the government. Back then France sent combat troops and prevented the jihadists from completely taking over the West African country. Subsequently, the UN stationed a 15,000-strong peacekeeping force in northern and central Mali. Its task is to supervise a peace treaty between the Tuareg and the government. The approximately 800 German soldiers in Gao are part of this UN operation.

However, seven years after the start of the UN deployment, the situation in Mali has not improved – on the contrary: the country is becoming increasingly unsafe, the casualty figures are rising with 204 peacekeepers killed out of the 15000.

Nonetheless, continue to stabilize the country is important as the terrorist threat needs to be contained without spreading over into the neighboring countries.

Germany could play a vital role here in the future if AKK can transform Germany’s Zeitgeist regarding its military.