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Gerhard Schroeder Calls for Timetable for Withdrawal from Afghanistan

12:58 PM, Feb 12, 2009 • By ULF GARTZKE
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Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who fiercely clashed with the Bush administration over the 2003 Iraq War, has published an essay in the weekly Der Spiegel on "The Way Forward in Afghanistan". While Schroeder strongly rejects pacifist calls for Germany's unilateral withdrawal from the military mission there he argues that "the time has come, more than seven years after the overthrow of the Taliban, to establish a timeframe for the transition to self-reliance, which would be tied to the beginnings of international troop withdrawal."

While Schroeder would later turn into a major Bush adversary in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq War, it is often overlooked that the German leader even called a vote of confidence in November 2001 to get his left-wing Red-Green government to support the deployment of Bundeswehr troops in Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. This was Schroeder's way of making good on his promise to show "unlimited solidarity" with the United States. In this context, Schroeder also stresses that "the deployment of the Bundeswehr in the Hindu Kush is an expression of Germany's complete sovereignty over its foreign and security policy." Here's a quick overview of Schroeder's key points on Afghanistan:

1. We [Germany] cannot unilaterally withdraw from Afghanistan right away. This would represent an abdication of international responsibility and a turning away from the community of nations. "[…]

2. The goal of international involvement in Afghanistan is to place responsibility for the country into the hands of Afghans, but also to ensure that the country does not once again become a safe haven and training ground for international terrorism. […]

3. In the regions where the Americans bear the principal responsibility, a disproportionately greater amount of weight is assigned to the military component than to civil reconstruction. In the North, on the other hand, the Bundeswehr is very well regarded by the local population because of its commitment to reconstruction. […]

4. The military presence remains the prerequisite for reconstruction in Afghanistan. This presence must even be strengthened in the short term to improve the security situation. For this reason, both raising the upper limit for the German ISAF mandate from 3,500 to 4,500 soldiers and the new US administration's announcement of its plans to add more troops are correct. […]

5. We need a blunt analysis within the NATO alliance on why efforts to pacify southern Afghanistan have failed. I am convinced that the Bundeswehr's concept, which tends to be militarily conservative and is considerate of the population and civilian facilities, will be more successful in the long run.

6. Civilian reconstruction efforts must be reinforced. The nations attending the Paris Conference on Afghanistan pledged US$20 billion (€15.3 billion) in aid. But instead of simply being promised, these funds must begin to flow, despite the international financial crisis.

7. Responsibility for the country must be turned over to the Afghans. This requires both international assistance and, above all, the will of the Afghans themselves. The Afghan leadership is deficient in this regard.