German leaders pay tribute to its troops who served for nearly 20 years in Afghanistan
BERLIN – German leaders paid tribute on Wednesday to his troops who served for nearly 20 years in Afghanistan, and the country’s president said the German response to the disappointing end of the mission must not be “resignation and withdrawal “from world affairs.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and other senior officials joined in a final roll call for troops at the Defense Ministry in Berlin. A military tattoo in front of the Reichstag parliament was scheduled for Wednesday evening.
More than 150,000 German troops served in Afghanistan between early 2002 and their final withdrawal this summer. Germany was in recent years the second largest supplier of troops after the United States. Fifty-nine German soldiers have died in missions in Afghanistan over the years.
The German army, the Bundeswehr, brought its last troops back from northern Afghanistan, long at the center of the country’s deployment, at the end of June.
After the Taliban took control of the country, Germany was one of the nations that participated in the eventful evacuation of Western nationals and endangered Afghans from Kabul airport. The German portion of the airlift ended on August 26 after the country’s military evacuated more than 5,300 people, including more than 4,000 Afghans. Many more stayed behind.
“There is no doubt, no ifs and buts about one thing, dear soldiers: the Bundeswehr has fulfilled its mission,” Steinmeier told the troops. “Our country is proud of you.
For the future, he added, “Germany deserves a security policy which draws the lessons of 20 years of Afghanistan”.
Steinmeier, who was then chief of staff to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder when the deployment began and was then twice Merkel’s foreign minister, said it was right to go to Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks in United States.
“There were doubts and often harsh criticisms, but there were also always good reasons why we stayed in Afghanistan,” he said.
“For me, it is clear that the fall of Kabul was a turning point,” he added. “We are at a crossroads which forces us to consider in a self-critical way our responsibility in the world, our possibilities and their limits. “
“I hope we don’t look back at this crossroads 20 years from now and say resignation and retirement was the answer to Afghanistan – that would be the wrong lesson,” Steinmeier said. “Because we Germans do not live in isolation on an island – let alone in 2021 than in 2001.