What’s it like for the Bundeswar, to be pulling out of Afghanistan after one of the most ambitious deployments of German military personnel since the end of World War II? For Germany’s Financial Times Deutschland, correspondent Joachim Zepelin reports on the mixed emotions of German troops, clear in the knowledge that the war will go on without them, and fearful that the gains they have won will be lost the moment they leave.
For the Financial Times Deutschland, Joachim Zepelin starts his account of the dismantling of one of Germany’s biggest outposts this way:
The withdrawal from Afghanistan has begun: the Bundeswehr is pulling out of the first of their larger bases. What remains is a feeling of not having completed the mission – and fear of a new war.
In the middle of the cargo hold, the luggage is piling up. Backpacks, boxes and two large dog kennels. Sixteen Passengers with body armor are pressed into the upholstered seats of the Bundeswehr helicopter, in which they sweat more than they would in the heat outside. A soldier looks into the colorful box in his hands, making sure the three turtles he wants to take home are still moving. Another lures two dogs through the narrow space into the kennels and locks them in. A pastor is on board – his mission, too, has ended. They’re homeward bound. To Germany. The pilot switches on the engine.
Another squad of German troops is also set to leave the Bundeswehr base in Faizabad this September day. Eight years ago, the Germans built this base in the far north of Afghanistan for up to 500 troops. Now it is the first major base to be vacated. On Tuesday, they handed the camp over to Afghan police. It’s the beginning of the end of one of the Bundeswehr’s most controversial deployments ever. The withdrawal from Afghanistan has begun.
In December 2001, the federal government sent the first troops to the Hindu Kush to fight the radical Islamic Taliban. With 52 deaths so far, it has been the bloodiest deployment of German troops since the end of World War II. But it is over. Due to public pressure, politicians have decided that by 2014 the Bundeswehr will be out of Afghanistan – even if the mission hasn’t been completed and the country still isn’t stabilized.
The pull-out is the greatest logistical operation in its history: over the next two years, 8,650 containers will have to be shipped back to Germany, 250 filled with ammunition. Add to that 1,900 vehicles, 1,200 of which are armored. Thousands of computers, printers, phones, dishes, tents, cots and generators are being counted, packaged and shipped. There has never been anything on this scale.
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