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Political Background Discussion with Stefan Kornelius

Berlin, June 30, 2009

Are Germany’s Federal Armed Forces engaged in a war in Afghanistan? Stefan Kornelius, foreign editor of Süddeutsche Zeitung, discussed the core theses of his essay “The Undeclared War – Germany’s Self-Deception in Afghanistan”, which was recently published in edition Körber-Stiftung’s “Standpunkte” series, with foreign and security policy decision-makers.

Against the background of the current debate on the question “Are Germany’s Federal Armed Forces engaged in a war in Afghanistan?” Stefan Kornelius defended the central thesis of his essay, which is that the German government ought to tell the German public in a more transparent and honest manner about the reasons for the deployment of the Federal Armed Forces in Afghanistan and the problems that it is up against. This would have to include a clear-cut admission that the Federal Armed Forces are engaged in a war in Afghanistan. However, some of the participants argued that the term “war” fails to do justice to the complexity of the situation in Afghanistan, and thus gives the public an imprecise idea of what is actually going on. Another controversial topic was the question of the extent to which the German Bundestag, acting within the terms of its parliamentary proviso, should become involved in the operational command and control. Stefan Kornelius underlined the importance of securing parliamentary legitimation for the Afghanistan mission, but at the same time criticized the parliament’s intrusion into operational details of the mission. Several participants expressed sympathy for Stefan Kornelius’s criticisms, though they also emphasized that the basic concept of the German Afghanistan mission was right. They stated that its “comprehensive approach” worked well in practice and had now to some extent been adopted by US forces.

The Political Background Discussion with Stefan Kornelius demonstrates the Körber Foundation’s ongoing interest in Afghanistan. This has already been evinced by, for example, the Political Breakfasts and Background Discussions with Daoud Sultanzoy, MP for the south-eastern Afghan province of Ghazni in the Afghan National Assembly and the chairman of the Committee for National Economy, Rural Development, Agriculture and NGOs, Lieutenant General Karl W. Eikenberry, US Ambassador to Afghanistan and former Deputy Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, secretary general of the Ahmad Shah Massoud Foundation and former foreign minister of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Körber Foundation regularly invites a small circle of high-ranking actors within Berlin’s foreign policy community to its Political Background Discussions. As in the Bergedorf Round Tables, the discussions take place shielded from the public, so as to enable a confidential, frank, and constructive exchange.

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