The German leader's aloofness on the collapse of Afghanistan has surprised many. For the past few months, her government has taken the issue too lightly and failed to debate it properly. This could prove a big mistake in her last weeks as German chancellor.
Anyone who summarizes Angela Merkel's government statement on the situation in Afghanistan comes up with the same words: "somewhat stupid." The coolness with which the chancellor and her government are approaching the collapse of the Afghan state has been breathtaking. It almost seems as if Merkel and Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz have agreed to talk about abstract mistakes, in an effort to consign the Afghan failure to history's rubbish heap as quickly as possible.
Merkel is helped by the fact that she's about to leave: Her 16-year tenure as chancellor will end in less than a month. And four weeks before the election, hardly anyone seems to want to ask hard questions and uncover the breadth of the Afghanistan debacle. But this is what is urgently needed to draw the necessary conclusions for future operations. The Bundestag federal parliament could have used its meeting on Wednesday to set up a committee of inquiry, but it wasted this opportunity.
One of the results could have been the realization that the rapid collapse of Afghanistan was entirely foreseeable. France, for instance, flew its citizens and all forces it deemed worthy of protection out of the country a while ago — long before the outbreak of the current fiasco. Why did Paris succeed where Berlin failed?
Afghan refugees transfer to the United States after evacuation from Kabul at an Air Base in Germany — Photo: Airman Edgar Grimaldo/U.S. Air/ZUMA
The federal government will not answer that question. We only hope that until the end of her chancellorship, Merkel will at least stay away from the airy, fragrant phrases that have been music to her listeners' ears in recent months, but sounded like she did not really mean them. If she did, it would have translated into a much needed show of strength in the fight against the Taliban — from 2001 onwards.
Defense Minister Peter Struck erroneously stated at the time that Germany was preserving its security by intervening in the Hindu Kush mountain range, in the country's northeast region. All foreign and defense politicians later repeated this line. If it really were so, the army should return to the Hindu Kush as quickly as possible. Today the Taliban rule over more parts of Afghanistan than before the invasion of the Americans, British and Germans, some 20 years ago.
So where, indeed, is Germany's security? The question could be soon answered by the new German government, provided it is able to drain the swamp of empty phrases in foreign and defense policy. It doesn't even need the army to do that.