The Bundeswehr’s involvement in the Sahel is drawing to a close. Participation in the UN mission MINUSMA will end by May 2024 at the latest. The framework conditions for an effective military engagement are no longer in place.
The redeployment of the German contingent from Mali will begin on June 1, 2023. This process is to be completed by May 2024 at the latest. On this date, German participation in MINUSMA will end. This will mark the end of a ten-year commitment in the region, which envisaged a personnel ceiling of up to 14,000 German soldiers.
According to the Bundestag mandate, the troops are now preparing for a “staggered and orderly redeployment in consultation with the united nations.” The top priority, it says, is to protect the German task force. The process is to be carried out by air. The CH-53 transport helicopter is planned for this purpose. It will be made available for the operation for as long as possible to ensure, among other things, the rescue of the wounded and injured.
Lack of cooperation
The original objective of the armed forces in the landlocked West African country was to support the Malian government in implementing the peace agreement in the north of the country. It also set a goal of helping to restore state authority in the center of the country. Mali was in need of international support because the security authorities in the country had little presence and were based on weakly developed security structures. In line with the precarious situation of the security authorities, terrorist groups and marauding gangs are hardly exposed to state repression. The security situation is therefore a cause for concern.
According to the German government, there are several reasons why the mandate was not continued despite this situation. The central argument, however, is the uncooperative behavior of the Malian government toward the UN mission. Increasingly, the framework conditions for “an effective military engagement of the Bundeswehr” are lacking. This is manifested in the deteriorating security situation and increasingly restricted freedom of movement for German troops.
The restriction of the overflight rights of German reconnaissance helicopters and drones in particular can be identified as a bone of contention. The priority security of German soldiers could not be taken into account to the appropriate extent. Another factor for the expiration of the cooperation is Mali’s clear turn towards Russia. What remains completely unmentioned, however, is the fact that the BMVg cited increased transport costs in Mali as one reason for not meeting the planned budget for foreign missions in the Bundestag’s budget committee.
Devastating balance sheet
After ten years of engagement, with some four-digit manpower, costs have exceeded the planned budget and the security situation is becoming increasingly precarious. The German government speaks of a significant deterioration of the security zone since 2021 in the newly revised Sahel strategy of the Federal Foreign Office, the Development Ministry and the BMVg. A worshipful assessment. Henceforth, therefore, it plans to build on “comparably stable states” as partners in efforts in the region.”
In line with this new approach, the Federal Republic of Germany is not withdrawing completely from the region, but is focusing its efforts increasingly on Niger. It continues to participate in the EU-Military Partnership in Niger and supports the training of special forces in the country. In view of the dismal results of German missions abroad in Afghanistan and Mali, a reorientation seems only logical. Especially in view of the renaissance of alliance defense in Europe and the global political challenges, it is to be hoped that the new strategy will prove more sustainable than its predecessors.
Jonas Brandstetter, editorial staff