Cabinet decides on Bundeswehr mandate

The German government has decided to approve the deployment of the Bundeswehr in Syria. Up to 1,200 German soldiers are to help prevent the terrorist activities of the so-called Islamic State (IS). The mandate must still be approved by the German Bundestag.

An Airbus refuels a Eurofighter mid-air.The Bundeswehr is also to provide an aerial refeulling plane for the Syrian missionPhoto: Bundeswehr/Ingo Bicker

Up to 1,200 German soldiers are to support the international alliance against the terrorist organisation Islamic State (IS), the Cabinet has decided. The German Bundestag must still approve the mandate.

"Since September 2014 we have been part of the international alliance in the fight against IS," underscored Chancellor Angela Merkel at her meeting with New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key in Berlin. To date Germany has trained the Peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq and supplied them with weapons. Now it is to expand its involvement in the fight against IS to include Syria, said Angela Merkel.

Reconnaissance, protection and logistics in the fight against IS

IS represents a threat to world peace and international security, as documented, for instance, by a United Nations Security Council resolution. IS fighters spread fear and terror with their extremist Salafist ideology of violence, their terrorist actions and their deadly and systematic attacks on civilians.

Against the background of the attacks in Paris, France requested additional support in the fight against the terrorist organisation in its core area of operations in Iraq and Syria.

Germany is to provide support in the form of reconnaissance and logistics as well as protection components. In addition to satellite reconnaissance, Tornado reconnaissance jets are to help obtain a precise picture of the situation on the ground. Cross-border movements can be identified, along with the actual size of the area of operations and influence.

Over and above this, Germany will provide an aerial refuelling plane, a frigate to escort the French aircraft carrier and staff unit and headquarters staff.

Bundeswehr to ease the burden on the French army in Mali

Alongside the fight against the IS terrorists, Germany will ease the burden on the French armed forces, and step up its engagement in Mali. Up to 650 Bundeswehr soldiers are to be deployed as part of the UN’s MINUSMA mission in Mali. Bundeswehr medical staff are also available to help the French authorities in case of an emergency in France.

"The German government stresses," said federal government spokesperson Steffen Seibert, "that this challenge cannot be met with military means alone. Diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis in Syria and the region remain crucially important."

In addition to its military engagement, Germany is also to step up the civilian and humanitarian support it is delivering in Syria, Iraq and in Syria’s neighbours, where refugees, internally displaced persons and the population of the host communities are to receive assistance.

"There can be no question of military and civilian support, or of foreign policy and domestic policy options being mutually exclusive alternatives. The question is, which instrument is most effective in which context. In Syria and Iraq the use of military force is correct and necessary in the given situation," said Steffen Seibert.

Further procedure to implement the mandate

Asked about the implementation of the mandate, the spokesperson of the Federal Ministry of Defence, Jens Flosdorff, explained, "Firstly we must await the vote of the German Bundestag, which is the basis on which to deploy troops and equipment and materials."

In response to questions about the stationing of the Tornado jets and the aerial refuelling plane, Jens Flosdorff confirmed that Incirlik Air Base in Turkey would be used. "But obviously the infrastructure and technical requirements must first be put in place before the Tornados can begin their reconnaissance work."

The initial plan is to deploy six Tornados. Further planning could also include other bases, said the Federal Defence Ministry spokesperson.

The mission is to support France, Iraq and the international alliance in the fight against IS on the legal basis of the right to collective self-defence laid out in Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations and in conjunction with United Nations Security Council resolutions 2170 (2014), 2199 (2015) and 2249 (2015).
Support for France is also provided as part of Germany’s obligations under the mutual defence clause (Article 42(7)) of the Treaty on the European Union. Troops and equipment will be deployed within the framework and in line with the rules of a system of mutual collective security as laid out in Article 24(2) of the German Basic Law or constitution.

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