After the end of the mission: Dispute over ceremony for Afghanistan soldiers

Status: 07/10/2021 5:26 p.m.

After the last Bundeswehr soldiers returned from Afghanistan, a dispute broke out about the appropriate place for the public honor. In front of the Bundestag, some say – in the Bendlerblock, others say.

From Kai Küstner,
ARD capital studio

It is the Bundestag that sends German soldiers on missions abroad. When they returned from Afghanistan, however, neither the defense minister nor any other politician was there to meet the returnees. In the last few days, this has led to some fierce criticism: “To be honest, what happened when the soldiers arrived is not a pretty picture,” said Green politician Tobias Lindner in an interview with the ARD capital studio.

Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer herself was on a trip to the USA when the last plane from Afghanistan landed in Wunstorf, Lower Saxony. The CDU politician defends herself against criticism by pointing out that the so-called “silent return” has merely complied with the express request of the troops. The soldiers wanted to go home to their families as soon as possible. In addition, Kramp-Karrenbauer now made it clear again: “We will appreciate the effort accordingly – for everyone who was in Afghanistan.”

Lindner: “Simply express thanks and appreciation”

The Green politician Lindner, on the other hand, says: Even if there had been a so-called “silent arrival”, the Defense Minister and the Foreign Minister could have been present. And if you hadn’t been informed the evening before at 9:30 p.m., politicians from the Defense Committee could also have been present: “It’s not about making speeches or shaking hands. It’s simply about being present to express thanks and appreciation . ”

The minister is backed by the last commander of the Afghanistan mission, Ansgar Meyer. For safety reasons, the date of the landing was not announced early, said the brigade general of the dpa news agency. In addition, it would have been unfair to everyone else if the focus had only been on the last 264 returnees.

The Ministry of Defense wants to honor all Afghanistan soldiers with a big appeal on August 31st. Federal President Steinmeier has already agreed. There is also a debate here about the framework that does justice to the most dangerous 20-year deployment of the Bundeswehr: an event in front of the Berlin Reichstag building is now also being requested by the Association of German Veterans in relation to the editorial network in Germany.

“Heart of Democracy” or the seat of the Ministry of Defense?

The FDP had already expressed the same wish. And the defense policy spokeswoman for the SPD parliamentary group, Siemtje Möller, thinks this is a good idea: “The Bundeswehr as a parliamentary army belongs in the heart of democracy and therefore before the Bundestag,” Möller said ARD capital studio.

Kramp-Karrenbauer himself, however, considers the Bendlerblock, the seat of the Ministry of Defense, to be the right place for the ceremony. The main aim is to send out a signal on the part of politics: “We are going to the Bundeswehr to thank the soldiers. And not: The Bundeswehr is going to parliament. That’s the right order.”

The discussion about how quietly or noisily, at what place and in what framework politics should honor the mission in Afghanistan will continue. In any case, a large-scale celebration could help, and not a few hope, to at least narrow the often lamented gap between society and the army.

Quiet return – dispute over the reception of Afghanistan soldiers

Kai Küstner, ARD Berlin, 10.7.2021 · 16:44