The mission in Afghanistan and the recent federal and regional elections

Christoph Kornes
Since the German parliament has sent soldiers to Afghanistan, there has been a controversial debate in Germany about the meaning and purpose of the mission of the Bundeswehr (German armed forces). The Kunduz Province in northern Afghanistan, which was regarded as relatively safe, has developed into a dangerous area for German soldiers. Since 2002 a total of 43 soldiers of the Bundeswehr have died.[1] In April 2010 seven German soldiers were killed whereby the operation is becoming increasingly unpopular in the German population. A poll conducted by ARD television in April showed that 70 percent of the respondents demand a withdrawal from Afghanistan.[2] The Bundestag, however, agreed on a new Afghanistan mandate for one year in February 2010 and increased the staff ceiling of 850 soldiers to 5,350.[3] In a government statement from Thursday, 22 April 2010, Chancellor Angela Merkel (Christian Democratic Union – CDU) defended the operation and called voices for an immediate withdrawal, as demanded by the Left Party (DIE LINKE), irresponsible. She also called for more support from society for the soldiers.[4]
The air strike in September 2009 on two tanker trucks in Afghanistan, ordered by Colonel Georg Klein, killed 142 people including many civilians and caused a preliminary proceedings from the Office of the Federal Prosecutor; moreover, it provoked international criticism of the Bundeswehr from the foreign ministers of Sweden and France, as well as from the Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.[5] The preliminary proceedings have been stopped now and the Union parties – CDU and the Christian Social Union (CSU) – call for a swift end of the Kunduz-Inquiry.[6] The attack caused the resignation of Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Franz Josef Jung (CDU) in November 2009, who was Minister of Defence at the time of the incident. The reason behind this decision can be traced back to the wilful default of information by the Federal Ministry of Defence about civilian casualties, which had been kept secret despite Jung having knowledge of them.[7] In this regard, the present Minister of Defence zu Guttenberg (CSU) has changed his former position and has now declared that the air strike was “militarily inappropriate” after reviewing all documents.[8] To this day the question of guilt has not been fully answered.
With the elections to the Bundestag on 27 September 2009, the grand coalition ended and the new government of Christian Democrats and Free Democrats (FDP) began its work. The two parties formed a coalition government under Chancellor Angela Merkel, who regained power for the second time. The CDU won, together with its sister party CSU, 33.8 percent of votes, the Social Democrats (SPD), with 23 percent of votes, achieved their lowest result since the Second World War.[9] Crucial to the next elections to the Bundestag and the majority in the Bundesrat, the upper house of the German parliament, was the regional election in North Rhine-Westphalia on 9 May 2010. Already in August 2009, the last two governments exclusively formed by CDU in Thuringia and Saarland were voted out of power in German regional elections, endangering the majority held by CDU/CSU and FDP in the Bundesrat. After the electoral defeat of the ruling CDU-FDP coalition in North-Rhine Westfalia in May 2010 the governing parties have lost their majority in the Bundesrat. This has a significant effect on the national political landscape in Germany, because the government will need the support of the opposition parties for major policy changes, such as tax cuts and reforms in the public health sector.

[1] Taliban-Angriff in Afghanistan: Bestürzung über Tod deutscher Soldaten, available at: (last access: 10 May 2010).

[2] ARD-Umfrage. Rückhalt in der Bevölkerung für den Afghanistan-Einsatz schwindet, available at: (last access: 10 May 2010).

[3] Bundesregierung: Neues Afghansitanmandat : Mehr Ausbildung und Schutz, available at: (last access: 10 May 2010).

[4] Merkels Regierungserklärung. Afghanistan-Mandat über jeden Zweifel erhaben, available at: (last access: 10 May 2010).

[5] Spiegel Online: The End of Innocence in Afghanistan. The German Air Strike Has Changed Everything, available at: (last access: 10 May 2010).

[6] Union will Kundus-Ausschuss beenden. Luftangriff erschöpft erörtert?, available at: (last access: 10 May 2010).

[7] Denkler, T.: Jung-Rücktritt. Zapfenstreich für den Problemminister, available at: (last access: 10 May 2010).

[8] Luftschlag bei Kundus. Guttenberg: „Militärisch nicht angemessen“, available at: (last access: 10 May 2010).

[9] Das Endergebnis der Bundestagswahl 2009, available at: (last access: 10 May 2010).