After ten years, the deployment of German blue helmets in Mali is coming to an end. The Bundestag extended the Bundeswehr mandate for the MINUSMA mission for the last time – against the votes of the opposition.
Actually, the positions of the parties on the deployment of the Bundeswehr in Mali seemed to be well known and exchanged – that’s when the debate in the Bundestag picked up speed again shortly before it ended: “I would like to finally hear an explanation as to why the CDU-CSU parliamentary group for three months refused their support for a mandate for the first time”, asked the FDP deputy Ulrich Lechte, who was not originally intended to speak, addressing the Union.
Three months because the Bundeswehr estimates a period of nine to twelve months for an orderly withdrawal from Mali, the traffic light has decided on twelve, i.e. a withdrawal by the end of May next year.
Union does not go fast enough
“Three months are not peanuts,” replied the CSU defense politician Florian Hahn, who was personally addressed. “This is about the safety of our soldiers.”
In short: The Union, which had otherwise always agreed to the extension of the mission, is not going fast enough with the deduction. The CDU foreign politician Jürgen Hardt speaks of a “delay instead of a withdrawal mandate”. it would take a whole year, just as Defense Minister Boris Pistorius argued in the Bundestag this week: “We’re not talking about moving a family with furniture vans.” That takes time.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Pistorius sat peacefully on the government bench during the final debate. It’s no secret that the Foreign Office would have liked to have remained part of the UN-led Mali mission longer – but the defense ministry would have liked to have brought the troops home earlier.
The compromise that was now sealed by the Bundestag with the “phase-out mandate” came out in November: withdrawal after a decade in Mali by the end of May 2024.
security situation is steadily deteriorating
The security situation in Mali is steadily deteriorating. The military regime in the country has not allowed the Germans to conduct drone reconnaissance flights for months and is also working with Russian Wagner mercenaries. “Under such conditions and with no real chance of success, it is no longer responsible to simply extend this mandate for such a highly dangerous mission year after year,” said Green politician Agnieszka Brugger.
While people want to avoid the impression of flight at the traffic light and give the United Nations a reliable timetable, the Union is campaigning – unsuccessfully – for a withdrawal by the end of the year.
The Left Party speaks of a completely failed mission that must be ended immediately. The AfD also wants to get out immediately. Defense expert Rüdiger Lucassen complained that the SPD, Greens, FDP and Union – the “democratic bloc,” as he put it – had always whitewashed the situation in Mali: “It’s all crap. It wasn’t true then, it wasn’t true the year before, it was never true.”
What will happen next in Mali without the Bundeswehr?
The big question, however, is: What will happen to Mali without the Bundeswehr, a country from which there is a risk of exporting terrorism, which is also of crucial importance for refugee movements? The more the key state slides in the direction of a failed state, the more threatening it becomes for Europe, according to the general assessment. The German government assures that the development aid will continue in Mali and remain loyal to the entire Sahel region – also by helping with military training in neighboring Niger.
But whether that will be enough to save the region and above all the crisis-ridden state of Mali from sinking into chaos is a question that is as pressing as it is important for Germany.