Study Commission on Afghanistan

German Bundestag                                                                        Printed paper 20/2570
20th electoral term                                                                          5 July 2022

tabled by the SPD, CDU/CSU, Alliance 90/The Greens and FDP parliamentary groups

Establishment of a Study Commission on lessons from Afghanistan for Germany’s comprehensive international engagement in the future

The Bundestag is requested to adopt the following motion:
The German Bundestag hereby establishes a Study Commission on lessons from Afghanistan for Germany’s comprehensive international engagement in the future.

I. Background
The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 marked a major turning point in Germany’s international crisis management. No other violent incident between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Russian invasion of Ukraine has had a greater impact on the foreign, security and development policy of the Federal Republic of Germany than the terrorist attacks on the United States more than 20 years ago. In response to the attack by the terrorist organisation al-Qaeda on the United States of America, the NATO mutual-defence clause was invoked for the first time. Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder spoke in the Bundestag assuring the United States of Germany’s unlimited solidarity; Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Joschka Fischer emphasised that, when serious crimes were committed, action had to be taken, „including in world domestic policy“. For two decades, Germany was engaged in Afghanistan within the framework of various operations and missions, mandated by the Bundestag and by Cabinet decision, to fight terrorism and stabilise the country, where the then ruling Taliban had harboured the responsible terrorist organisation, al-Qaeda. From the beginning, Germany’s engagement was closely integrated into that of the international community of states. This was achieved by means of United Nations structures and on the basis of UN resolutions, but primarily within the framework of the operations organised and led by NATO, in which a number of other states took part alongside the members of NATO. These operations intensified international military cooperation, particularly within NATO but also between NATO and its partner countries, raising that cooperation to a new political level. German’s engagement in its established form ended with the withdrawal of the Bundeswehr and allied states in summer 2021, as a result of the Doha Agreement negotiated between the United States under then President Donald Trump and the leaders of the Taliban and the withdrawal of US troops completed by the Biden administration.

Parliamentary review of the evacuation from Afghanistan will form the substance of the 1st Committee of Inquiry in the 20th electoral term (on the evacuation mission of the Bundeswehr operation in Afghanistan – printed paper 20/2352), which the parliamentary groups tabling the motion consider necessary because the precipitous ending of the international operation was associated with danger to life and limb for people in Afghanistan as well as foreign-policy damage to the Federal Republic of Germany and its partners. The Study Commission, on the other hand, is to be tasked with comprehensively inquiring into all of Germany’s foreign, security and development policy engagement in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2021. The intended aim of that comprehensive review with academic support is to draw lessons from the more than 20 years of Germany’s multifaceted operation in Afghanistan, embedded in the international operation, for Germany’s future military and civil international engagement and the comprehensive approach. The commission’s mandate will therefore cover reviewing both the military and the civil engagement in its entirety. Regarding Germany’s military involvement, the various phases of the deployments are to be investigated, i.e. its contribution to the fight against international terrorism in the context of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), deployment as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the Resolute Support Mission (RSM). The military and the civil instruments, i.e. intensive diplomatic and development-policy efforts, were intended to complement one another as part of the comprehensive approach. The civil engagement comprised varied and intensive international and development-policy efforts to support the Afghan government in creating lasting security and stability and to pursue such aims as combating poverty, economic development, promoting the rule of law and improving governance for Afghanistan.

The Study Commission is to analyse the various phases of the whole of Germany’s civil and military involvement in Afghanistan in terms of objectives set and objectives achieved. Particularly in light of the constant changing of objectives throughout the more than 20 years of engagement, the use of resources and the increasing interdependence, in the course of that engagement, between the military and civil elements in the context of foreign and development-policy measures, the focus is also to be on analysing the degree to which objectives were achieved. The question as to why the military and civil stabilisation measures did not contribute to a lasting establishment of peace in the country, after the evident success of the military deployment against the tyranny of the Taliban at the beginning of the operation and the successful fight against al-Qaeda and other terrorist networks, is part of that investigation.

An independent and comprehensive review of this nature into Germany’s civil and military contributions is essential in the interests of formulating lessons for a future policy of strategic foresight, conflict prevention, crisis management, post-crisis rehabilitation and stabilisation as well as the fight against terrorism and the development of structures safeguarding democracy and human rights. It is simultaneously an obligation vis-à-vis the service personnel, police officers, diplomats and all those involved in humanitarian aid organisations or development cooperation who were deployed on a highly demanding and risky operation at the behest of the Federal Government and Bundestag.

At the core of Germany’s international military and civil action is the comprehensive approach, whose genesis and development as a concept has been significantly influenced by Germany’s engagement in Afghanistan. It comprises the coordination and agreement of military, police, diplomatic, development-policy and humanitarian resources to be deployed in a pooled, targeted and thus optimised manner. The dovetailing and synergetic effects of the following pillars should be highlighted in particular:

1. Security and stabilisation: fight against terrorism, military stabilisation and creation of a safe environment, development of effective Afghan armed and security forces;
2. Peacebuilding: diplomatic activities, regional integration, support for the peace process and civilian conflict management, reconciliation;
3. Development of state structures, good governance and instruments serving to promote democracy;
4. Combating of drugs and corruption;
5. Reconstruction and development.

Attention is also to be paid to the interaction between various players at the local, regional, multinational and international levels, the selection of cooperation partners, civil-military cooperation and the coherence of structures of leadership, coordination and responsibility.

The security, social, economic, legal and humanitarian advances achieved in Afghanistan have been greatly put at risk since the seizure of power by the Taliban and have in some cases already been reversed. The objectives we set for ourselves were not all achieved. The experience of the Afghanistan operation is therefore in part a severe setback for the Federal Government’s international action and the principle of the comprehensive approach. At the same time, the comprehensive approach remains the guiding principle of the Federal Government’s involvement in international crisis management.

A far-sighted politics should, in its decision-making, take lessons from the wealth of experience gained from the engagement in Afghanistan and so do everything possible to avoid mistakes, wrong turnings and conceptual as well as systemic problems in future. To that end, the Study Commission on lessons from Afghanistan for Germany’s comprehensive international engagement in the future is to analyse its engagement in Afghanistan from an interdisciplinary perspective and – chiefly though not exclusively – on that basis develop lessons for the comprehensive approach and draw up recommendations – where necessary – for adaptation and evolution. In that endeavour, the Study Commission is also to draw up proposals for the development, addition and onward evolution of standards and systems for the ongoing and future evaluation of operations.

On the basis of the experience gained in Afghanistan, the Study Commission is to draw up proposals for efficient, cohesive and comprehensive cooperation and communication between the government departments involved. The Study Commission is moreover to seek dialogue with important international partners, particularly within the EU and NATO, the G7, UN organisations and the development banks active in Afghanistan, as well as important bilateral partners, and, where review has already occurred, to include this in its own analysis. Conclusions are also to be drawn regarding information sharing and cooperation at the international and European levels.

Where justified, the Study Commission must have access to internal government documents. The Federal Government is called upon to examine which documents can be declassified and made available to the Study Commission.

II. Task
The German Bundestag hereby tasks the Study Commission – independently of and in addition to current legislative procedures and parliamentary decisions – with examining the comprehensive approach with reference to the engagement in Afghanistan as an example, and particularly to the Bundeswehr deployments and the associated challenges, and with putting together lessons from 20 years of engagement in Afghanistan, not least in order to draw conclusions from them for Germany’s ongoing and future international military and civil endeavours:

A. Review of Germany’s engagement in Afghanistan

Guiding strategies and interests

  • Presentation of the overall strategy in each phase of the engagement
  • Coordination and integration of the German approach within the engagement of the international community
  • Distillation of the national and international guiding interests that motivated the above-mentioned overall strategy
  • Assessment of the initial conditions, including the Petersberg Conference of December 2001

Setting of objectives for military operations and for civil engagement in its various facets

  • Definition of objectives
  • Identification of conflicting objectives
  • Assessment of the realistic and foreseeable achievability of the objectives
  • Assessment of the agreement and coordination of objectives with local, regional and international partners

Adaptation of objectives and ongoing review of the engagement

  • Review, adaptation or redefinition of objectives in view of time-related changes or alterations in the situation
  • Review of monitoring and evaluation of the engagement and the situation report for the whole of Afghanistan
  • Review of resources made available, their suitability and effect

Review of the mechanisms for cooperation in the international and multinational context

  • Interdependence of the various sources of evaluations and objectives within the Federal Government and with local and international partners

Instruments used

  • Analysis of the various foreign, security and development-policy instruments in the specific circumstances of Afghanistan and their usability
  • Analysis of the deployed national instruments and capacities in the multinational context and of the capabilities that may be lacking
  • Development of the instruments over the course of the engagement and analysis of their adaptability to the specifics of the engagement and to the statement of objectives
  • Review of the requirements placed on staff, the pre-deployment training – including intercultural competence – given to seconded personnel, the effects of fluctuations and the role of local staff
  • Estimation of the effects of the engagement on the disposition, organisation and methods of the participating instruments of Germany’s foreign, security and development-policy activity (including long-term consequences of psychological trauma resulting from deployments)
  • Enquiry as to possible political limitations on the framework conditions for fulfilling mandates and achieving the objectives facing the organisations and instruments actively involved on the ground and the effects on the achievement of objectives

Organisation of operations

  • Organisation and coordination mechanisms for the integration of Germany’s engagement into that of the international community, particularly the UN and NATO
  • Organisation and ongoing adaptation of structures, scale, capabilities and resources, including superordinate/central leadership/coordination of the engagement
  • Interaction and communication of the participating government departments, subordinate agencies and intelligence services
  • Organisation of responsibilities/remits and of international coordination/liaison

Continuation and possible end of operations

  • Measurement and parameters of achievement of objectives, impact indicators
  • Definition of possible termination criteria, timings and strategies
  • Analysis of interdependencies between national decisions and decision-making processes and those of international partners and organisations

B. Lessons for Germany’s comprehensive international engagement in the future

Potential and limits of the comprehensive approach

  • Analysis of the specifics of Afghanistan to contextualise conclusions on the effectiveness of the comprehensive approach
  • Enshrining and implementation of security and stability, democracy, pluralism, human rights, individual fundamental rights, inclusion for all, etc.
  • Options for action between values-driven and interest-driven international action
  • The time factor and temporal horizons, short-term versus long-term instruments and needs as well as their cost factors
  • Burden-sharing, cooperation, the role of prevention, strengthening of resilience and human security
  • Potential for opportunities and examples of best practice
  • Recommendations for possible limited scenarios for purely security-related engagement if the situation demands it

Development of institutions

  • Recommendations for action to develop operational institutions, administrations and decision-making structures (local, regional, national) based on the expectations of those affected
  • Analysis of the influence of Afghanistan’s formal and informal political structures
  • Security sector reform, finance, development and support of armed and security forces, strengthening of democratic scrutiny
  • Analysis of the effectiveness of the development of security forces
  • Recommendations for action to hinder and prevent corruption in Afghan institutions and in the international engagement
  • Importance and role of bilateral and international financial support and donor coordination, especially in the context of weak state partnership structures
  • Strengthening of parliamentary, civil-society and also private-sector institutions as well as independent media

Empowerment and consideration of women and girls

  • Recommendations for action for the lasting advancement of women and girls, not least with regard to protecting and guaranteeing rights
  • Recommendations for action for greater consideration of women’s role as key players within comprehensive engagement

Setting of objectives, analysis and evaluation

  • Recommendations for action to define operation-specific objectives of the comprehensive approach
  • Drawing up of operationalisable parameters for evaluation of the objectives associated with the comprehensive approach, including context-related, realistic timeframes, and target indicators for the various phases and aspects of the comprehensive approach, not least with respect to the resources used
  • Drawing up of interdisciplinary and comprehensive analysis mechanisms
  • Evaluation of the Progress Reports on Afghanistan for their usefulness to the setting of objectives for, analysis of and continuous evaluation of the engagement
  • Parliament and the public: provision of information to parliament and strategic referral to the committees of the German Bundestag, use of the available sources of information
  • Importance of the possibility of groupthink
  • Recommendations for action for the development of exit strategies, including those for sub-components; necessary underlying conditions for continuation of civil measures when the military component ends, role of civil endeavour to stay engaged for stabilisation and stability
  • Proposals for targeted involvement of parliament in the strategic shaping of comprehensive engagement

Interplay of the comprehensive approach practised by Germany with other players

  • Analysis of systems and aspects of the comprehensive approach among allies and multilateral organisations
  • Identification of synergies and points of conflict

Interrelationships between the various aspects of the comprehensive approach

  • Identification and analysis of tipping points which demand a reassessment of the resources and strategies required
  • Interaction between non-military and military aspects of the comprehensive approach
  • Basic security prerequisites for successful non-military engagement
  • Positive and negative effects of non-military aspects on security and stability

Interaction with international players, alliances and the states of the region

  • Interests and involvement of the central NATO allies and effects thereof on the development of Afghanistan and Germany’s engagement
  • Interests and influence of the regional states, especially Pakistan, on the development of Afghanistan and the chances of successful engagement by the international community
  • Interests and influence of important global state actors on the development of Afghanistan and the chances of successful engagement by the international community
  • Decision-making mechanisms and dynamics within NATO regarding the Alliance’s objectives and engagement in Afghanistan
  • Expectations placed on Germany and Germany’s role within the international community’s engagement in Afghanistan and their feedback effects on the formulation of German objectives and strategies
  • Limiting factors for Germany’s involvement within the international community’s engagement

Interaction with the local population and local governance structures

  • Identification of the mechanisms of meaningful approaches and constructively cooperative decision-makers with regard to the role and function of local, regional and also national power structures
  • Drawing up of practical mechanisms to enable experience/requirements/expectations on the ground and in the local population to feed back into the future shaping of operations, including at higher levels of leadership
  • Significance and potential of participation as well as local and regional approaches for the various components of the comprehensive approach
  • Assessment of the necessity and scale of mechanisms to engender flexibility in military and civil support

III. Recommendations for action
The Study Commission is intended to be a place where politicians alongside representatives of institutions involved in the engagement, experts from institutions charged with the operation and academics from the relevant disciplines reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of the German military and civil engagement as well as the interplay of these in the context of the comprehensive approach – in view of the engagement in Afghanistan – pick up on proposals from practice, research, civil society and wider society, and develop specific ideas and recommendations for action for political decision-makers. Based on the outcome of its investigation, the Study Commission is to identify what state action is required at the national, European and international levels.

IV. Composition and public access
The Study Commission comprises twelve Members of the German Bundestag and twelve experts. The SPD parliamentary group will appoint three members, the CDU/CSU parliamentary group will appoint three members, the Alliance 90/The Greens parliamentary group will appoint two members, and the FDP parliamentary group will appoint two members, the AfD parliamentary group will appoint one member and the Left Party parliamentary group will appoint one member.

A deputy member can be appointed for each Member of the Bundestag. The experts will be appointed by consensus among the parliamentary groups. If consensus cannot be reached, the parliamentary group will appoint them in line with the above key.

The ongoing acquisition of knowledge and the findings of the Study Commission are to be made accessible to the public in an appropriate form that takes account of the needs arising from particularly sensitive information and knowledge. Additionally, a website and other suitable digital channels are to provide information and documents in multilingual form. This may make it easier to connect back with Afghan civil society and our international partners.

To make the best possible use of the opportunities for learning from this review, the Study Commission is to draw up proposals for how the recommendations can be put into practice in accordance with a suitable timetable.

V. Schedule
The Study Commission is to be formed without delay and present its findings and recommendations for action after the parliamentary recess of summer 2024 at the latest.

Berlin, 5 July 2022

Dr Rolf Mützenich and the SPD parliamentary group
Friedrich Merz, Alexander Dobrindt and the CDU/CSU parliamentary group
Katharina Dröge, Britta Haßelmann and the Alliance 90/The Greens parliamentary group

Christian Dürr and the FDP parliamentary group