Germany’s leaders paid respect to its servicemen who served in Afghanistan for nearly two decades on Wednesday.
The German president stated that the country’s response to the mission’s failure should not be “resignation and retreat” from international politics.
At the Defense Ministry in Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and other key officials took part in a final roll call for the troops. On Wednesday evening, a military tattoo was scheduled in front of the Reichstag legislative building.
Between the beginning of 2002 and the end of this summer, more than 150,000 German troops served in Afghanistan. After the United States, Germany has been the second-largest troop provider in recent years. Over the years, fifty-nine German personnel have perished in Afghanistan missions.
In late June, Germany’s military, the Bundeswehr, returned its final troops from northern Afghanistan, which had long been the center of the country’s operation.
Germany was one of the countries that assisted in the frantic evacuation of Western people and vulnerable Afghans from Kabul airport after the Taliban gained control of the country. After evacuating more than 5,300 individuals, including over 4,000 Afghans, Germany’s contribution of the airlift came to a conclusion on August 26. Many more people stayed behind.
“There is no doubt, no ifs and buts about one thing, dear soldiers: the Bundeswehr accomplished its mission,” Steinmeier said. “You have made our country proud.”
“Germany deserves a security policy that draws lessons from Afghanistan’s 20-year history,” he continued.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, Steinmeier, who was then-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s chief of staff when the deployment began and later served twice as Merkel’s foreign minister, stated it was the proper decision to go into Afghanistan.
“There were always good reasons why we stayed in Afghanistan,” he added. “There were misgivings and often severe criticism, but there were also always good reasons why we stayed in Afghanistan.”
“It’s apparent to me that the fall of Kabul was a watershed moment,” he added. “We are at a fork in the road that requires us to reflect critically about our role in the world, our capabilities, and their limits.