As soon as the last Bundeswehr aircraft took off from Kabul, it was clear that the circumstances of the chaotic evacuation would one day concern a committee of inquiry. This has now started work.

On the last day of the session before the parliamentary summer recess, the Bundestag’s Afghanistan investigative committee began work. It is intended to shed light on the frantic evacuation from Kabul in the summer of 2021. It is also about the fate of several thousand former local workers who are still waiting for an opportunity to emigrate to Germany.

The Bundestag also set up an inquiry commission with the voices of the SPD, Union, Greens and FDP, which, with scientific support, should question the sense of the almost 20-year-long Afghanistan mission and derive lessons for the future.

Today, Afghanistan is a “maltreated country in a catastrophic state,” said Schahina Gambir of the Greens. “We have to learn from unrealistic goals,” demanded Michael Müller (SPD). The former Governing Mayor of Berlin is to head the Enquete Commission.

CDU: Use basically correct

The militant Islamist Taliban took power in Kabul in August 2021. They encountered little resistance from the Afghan armed forces, in whose training the Bundeswehr had also contributed. Johann Wadephul (CDU) is nevertheless convinced that the operation, in which 59 German soldiers died, was not a failure overall and was therefore fundamentally correct. He said: “For 20 years, Afghanistan was no longer a safe haven for international terrorism.” Girls could have gone to school, women could have studied.

The starting point for the intervention in Afghanistan was the attacks of September 11, 2001, to which the Islamist terrorist organization Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility. Later, the original war aim – to deprive the terrorists of their safe haven – was expanded. The goals formulated included disempowering the Taliban, strengthening the Afghan armed forces, democracy, freedom of expression and women’s rights.

In an application for the last extension of the mandate for the deployment of the Bundeswehr in Afghanistan, which the Bundestag discussed in March 2021, it said: “A withdrawal under the current conditions not only poses a threat to the immediate stability of Afghanistan and the region, but also for the hard-won progress of the last decades as a whole.»

Humanitarian situation in Afghanistan should move into focus

The committee of inquiry is not primarily about naming “culprits”, said Chairman Ralf Stegner. Another goal is to draw attention to the current humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.

By evaluating documents and questioning witnesses, the investigative committee is supposed to clarify who made which decision and when, where mistakes were made and what consequences are to be drawn. It is also an important task to establish procedures for dealing with local Bundeswehr forces in other operations – for example in Mali – said the security policy spokeswoman for the Greens, Sara Nanni, before the start of the constituent meeting of the committee.

The focus of the investigation is, among other things, the Foreign Office, which was headed by the SPD politician Heiko Maas at the time. Among other things, the communication of the German diplomatic missions in Afghanistan and the surrounding countries should be examined. The committee members hope that this will also provide clues as to how the obviously overly optimistic assessment of the situation in Afghanistan came about. The Federal Intelligence Service will also have to answer critical questions in this context.

Merkel and Seehofer as witnesses?

The first witnesses are expected to be interviewed on September 29th. Experts should be consulted beforehand. It is not yet clear whether former Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and former Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) will be included in the committee.

The Bundeswehr left Afghanistan in June 2021 faster than originally planned. In doing so, she followed the time specifications of the USA. In August, when the Taliban took Kabul, Germany then participated in an international military evacuation operation. Dramatic scenes took place at the airport in the Afghan capital in the second half of August when many people wanted to leave the country.

The Committee is considering a period beginning on February 29, 2020. On this day, the US government signed the Doha Agreement with the Taliban. In return for the withdrawal of US troops, the Islamists undertook, among other things, to hold peace talks and participate in an inclusive government, which ultimately did not materialize. The end of the investigation should be September 30, 2021. A month earlier, the last US soldiers had left Kabul Airport.

Thousands of local workers and relatives in Germany

According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, 3,284 former local employees of German institutions – so-called local staff – entered Germany from Afghanistan between August 16, 2021 and the beginning of July 2022. According to the information, the Afghan local forces came accompanied by 11,857 family members.

There were also other Afghans who are considered “particularly endangered” by the Federal Foreign Office – together with their relatives, there were around 4,857 people.