Belated recognition: Germany honors its Afghanistan veterans

When the last Bundeswehr soldiers returned from Afghanistan, there was no federal government representative at the airport. Two weeks later, a major tattoo was scheduled, then postponed. The ceremony will take place today.

Three and a half months after the Bundeswehr withdrew from Afghanistan, soldiers who were deployed there were honored with a big tattoo. At the same time, the 59 men who were killed or died there will be commemorated.

While the deployment continues to be controversial, politicians from the government and the opposition paid tribute to the soldiers’ achievements. “I am firmly convinced that the Bundeswehr can be proud of its work in Afghanistan,” said Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer from the CDU. “All the orders given by Parliament have been fulfilled.” Nevertheless, it is also about taking stock “openly and honestly”.

In contrast, FDP defense politician Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann spoke of a failed mission. She stated, however, that it was not the soldiers who caused the Afghanistan engagement to fail, “it was the federal government, which was unable and unwilling to evaluate and adapt the goals it had set.”

ntv broadcasts the big tattoo live.

SPD General Secretary Lars Klingbeil said in the “Early start” at ntv, he thinks it is “just right that the great tattoo takes place today”. It is also correct that it should take place in front of Parliament. The point is to say thank you to the soldiers for what they have achieved. “59 soldiers died in Afghanistan, they must be remembered,” said Klingbeil. In addition, the starting point for the big tattoo was that when the soldiers returned from Afghanistan, “nobody was at the airport and picked them up in Wunstorf. That was a low point of this mission too. That’s why it is good that it is taking place today . “

Returnees were not welcomed by the federal government

The last plane with soldiers stationed in Afghanistan landed on June 30th at the air force base in Wunstorf near Hanover. They were received by the commander of the Bundeswehr Operations Command, Lieutenant General Erich Pfeffer. Neither Kramp-Karrenbauer nor Chancellor Angela Merkel or Foreign Minister Heiko Maas came to Wunstorf to greet the soldiers. This was justified with scheduling conflicts. The Federal Armed Forces Association criticized Back then, politicians had “done almost everything wrong in welcoming the last returnees back to Afghanistan”.

A major tattoo was not planned until two weeks after the last soldiers returned. It was originally supposed to take place on August 31, but it was postponed due to the ongoing evacuation of Germans and local staff from Kabul at the end of August. The fact that the Federal Armed Forces were withdrawn from Afghanistan by the federal government without considering the fate of the local employees met with particular bitterness in the sponsorship network for Afghan local staff established by the German armed forces. “We warned early, but the federal government was not interested,” said association spokesman Lucas Wehner in the Interview with ntv.de. It is disappointing, “that we as a private organization have to campaign like this, because politicians talk about responsibility, but they do not take it on. Unfortunately, Germany cannot be relied on.”

According to many experts, the mission has failed because the Taliban were able to take power in the country within days shortly after the western troops had withdrawn. “It was clear that the troops would be withdrawn in the foreseeable future when President Trump began talks with the Taliban in Doha and provided them with a platform,” said Strack-Zimmermann ntv.de. “The federal government would have had enough time to prepare the departure of the people in the diplomatic missions and the local staff in addition to the military and logistical withdrawal. It is unforgivable that this did not happen.”

A total of 93,000 Bundeswehr soldiers were deployed in the Hindu Kush, some of them several times. The commemoration begins at 1 p.m. with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Bundeswehr Memorial on the premises of the Defense Ministry in Berlin, in which, among others, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the Federal Defense Minister take part. Steinmeier then wants to meet with the bereaved and disabled people there. At 2.30 p.m., a central closing roll call will take place at the Ministry of Defense, to which Steinmeier and Merkel are expected. According to the Bundeswehr, this final roll call is aimed exclusively at soldiers and civilian employees of the Bundeswehr who were deployed in Afghanistan, as well as the relatives of those who died or were killed in action. The big tattoo marks the end of the day at 7:00 p.m. on the Platz der Republik in front of the Reichstag building.

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