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The “Defence of Germany in the Hindu Kush”. The German Role in Afghanistan

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“Our security is being defended not only, but also, in the Hindu Kush”, the then German defence minister, Peter Struck, declared on 11 March 2004. Even so, the federal government claimed for a long time that Germany was not at war. After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington on 11 September 2001, NATO declared for the first time since it was founded in 1949 that there was a state of defence against the aggression from Afghanistan. However, with just a few allies, the USA then went to war against the Al-Qaida bases and the Taliban government in Afghanistan that supported them. Germany’s involvement in wrestling down the Taliban regime was limited to a task force of just 100 soldiers. By the end of 2014, the military campaign “Operation Enduring Freedom” against Taliban formations and to track down the Al-Qaida leadership was continued in the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Independently of this operation, a robust peacekeeping and state-building mission was formed by UN known as the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, in which the Federal Republic of Germany also participated. It was responsible for the northern region, which for a long time had remained peaceful. From 1993 onwards, ISAF had been under NATO command. Since that time, the OEF, or Operation Enduring Freedom, and the ISAF have been increasingly combined. Since September 2008, they were even under joint command of a US general.

The hoped-for stabilisation of the new state and social institutions failed to materialise. Quite the opposite: the armed campaigns and suicide terrorist attacks against the western troops, non-governmental organisations and the institutions of the new regime have multiplied considerably in recent years and have also extended to the north. As a consequence of the large number of civilian casualties from their military operations, the corruption of the Karzai regime supported by them and the ongoing economic misery, the western troops increasingly have made themselves the object of hatred among the Afghans.

Even today, a coherent international concept and a willingness to provide massive reinforcement for the civilian rebuilding operations and security is still lacking. The lack of support among a large majority of Afghans for the western troop presence made it necessary to end the OEF and ISAF in 2014. The west wants to continue to support the regime in Kabul even after this date, although its democratisation goals have largely not been met. Again, it has been shown that not only communism, but also democracy, human rights and the emancipation of women cannot be exported in tanks.


  • Security Council
  • Terrorist Attack
  • United Nations Security Council
  • Alliance Partner
  • Operation Enduring Freedom

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  1. 1.

    Chiari (2009), Maley (2009).

  2. 2.

    United Nations Security Council S/RES/1368 (2001), 12 September 2001, threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts,

  3. 3.

    Erstmals Bündnisfall ausgerufen, in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 2 October 2001,

  4. 4.

    United Nations Security Council S/RES/1386 (2001), 20 December 2001, on the situation in Afghanistan,

  5. 5.

    Tom Koenigs was Special Representative of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) from 2006 to 2007. He later took a more critical view of the situation in Afghanistan (Koenigs and Schmierer 2011; Koenigs 2010).

  6. 6.

    Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, (as of February 2015).

  7. 7.

    Security Council Extends International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan for One Year to Help Build Afghan Security Sector, by Resolution 1943 (2010),

  8. 8.

    Ehrhart (2011).

  9. 9.

    The EUPOL Mission was extended until the end of 2016,

  10. 10.

    On a critical discussion of the evangelical church with regard to the military intervention (Arnold 2013).

  11. 11.

    Struck (2004, p. 97).

  12. 12.

    Rynning (2012).

  13. 13.

    On the role of drugs in the Afghan economy, see Dodge and Redman (2011, pp. 97–119), Riecke and Francke (2013, pp. 25–71).

  14. 14.

    In the third presidential elections, with a high voter turnout, the victor was the Pashtun Ashraf Ghani, whose victory in the final ballot on 14 June 2014 was only recognised by the losing candidates, Tadjiks and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah after heated disputes over claims of electoral fraud.

  15. 15.

    Taylor (2008), Schetter (2011).

  16. 16.

    Lindemann (2011, pp. 272–273).

  17. 17.

    Permanseder (2013).

  18. 18.

    Seiffert et al. (2012), Daxner (2014).

  19. 19.

    “And the war will also not end in 2014. A Westfalian peace (referring to the peace after 30 years of war in Central Europe during the seventeenth century, E.J.)… is not in sight in Afghanistan” (Ruttig 2014).

  20. 20.

    Schetter (2013).

  21. 21.

    On the role of the individual neighbouring states, see Riecke and Francke (2013, pp. 75–123), Dodge and Redman (2011, pp. 167–252).


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Jahn, E. (2015). The “Defence of Germany in the Hindu Kush”. The German Role in Afghanistan. In: German Domestic and Foreign Policy. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

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