Bundestag approves mandate for Syria mission

With a large majority, the German Bundestag has voted to approve the deployment of the Bundeswehr in the fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS). Up to 1,200 Bundeswehr troops are to support the international alliance against the terrorist organisation.

A TornadoTordano reconnaissance jets are to be deployed, as well as a frigate and an aerial refuelling planePhoto: Bundeswehr/Ingo Bicker

The German Bundestag has given the go-ahead for the Bundeswehr’s Syrian mission. A large majority of the members of the German Bundestag voted in favour of the deployment of up to 1,200 troops, who are to reinforce the international alliance against the terrorist organisation Islamic State.

Ursula von der Leyen says military action not an end in itself

At a press conference on Thursday with Bundeswehr Inspector General Volker Wieker, Federal Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen again explained the reasons for Germany’s engagement. "The attacks in Paris have shown that we must take even more resolute and even more consistent action against IS at all levels."

She stressed, "I would like to make it very clear again here that military action is not an end in itself. It must, of course, always be part of an overall concept, especially a political concept."

Pushing ahead with the political process

Ursula von der Leyen placed this political concept at the heart of all activities targeting the so-called IS. "We have now managed to get the Vienna process moving, with all parties, who were originally involved in Syria with very different interests, around one table." The minister mentioned the United States of America, Europe, Russia, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia, as actors involved in the peace process. "The Vienna process is the main political process, and the military action against IS is part of that process."

Commenting on the objective of the military operation, the minister pointed out that it is closely aligned with the United Nations Security Council resolution 2249, which also provides the framework, "namely to combat IS, to stem its forward march, destroy its safe havens and put an end to its opportunity to undertake terrorist operations around the world. In a broad way this is very clearly expressed in the Security Council resolution and is for us the objective of this military operation, which is part of the overall concept."

Length of mission depends on political progress

On Wednesday Ursula von der Leyen said in the German breakfast television programme ARD-Morgenmagazin that it will be a long mission. "And it will be a difficult and dangerous mission. We should not harbour any illusions on this point." The precise length of the mission cannot be predicted. It will depend on "the course of the political process in which the military action is embedded".

The Minister of Defence also explained that the necessary consultation among partners and the command strategy is clearly regulated. "We are part of the alliance against terrorist. The US has the supreme command based in Tampa, Florida. Below the command structure is a broad multinational structure."

The minister continued to explain that there are "very clear regulations governing the flying of reconnaissance missions and governing the way the data obtained is to be shared. Only a small number of countries are involved, and that is those countries actively involved in operations in Syria. But we know all these countries well: Belgium, France, Italy and Denmark, to give only a few examples."

On the question of Russian involvement she pointed to an "agreement between the USA and Russia at technical level – which is the lowest level – to clarify who flies where, in order to ensure that there are no unintentional incidents in the air."

Political solution needed, says Frank-Walter Steinmeier

On Tuesday, Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier reaffirmed on the German television news programme Tagesthemen that a political solution is needed to end the conflict in Syria, and for the future of the country. According to Frank-Walter Steinmeier, what is now needed is to facilitate the start of a political process, with Russia, America, the Europeans and Syria’s neighbours in the region – and with the involvement of Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The next step must be to get the opposition in Syria together, in order "to discuss with the opposition, whether it could envisage a limited ceasefire". This would be linked to the goal of ensuring that "oppositional forces and government forces do not tear one another apart", but that they concentrate on fighting the IS.

Reconnaissance, protection and logistics

On Tuesday, the Cabinet decided to deploy the Bundeswehr as part of the Syrian mission. Up to 1,200 German troops are to help prevent the terrorist actions of the Islamic State (IS) 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 relieve 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.

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.

Further procedure to implement the mandate

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.

Friday, 4. December 2015

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