Which picture will haunt me forever

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg: "Afghanistan will always haunt me"

Thirteen years of service in Afghanistan. Today the so-called ISAF mandate of NATO ends.

These days we read again about the dark side of a war. About targeted killings. About the role of the BND and the Bundeswehr in the hunt for the Taliban. Anyone who reduces the deployment of the Bundeswehr in the Hindu Kush to these questions is wrong.

My balance sheet is inextricably linked with one word: WHAT FOR? I have experienced this question in various forms. Screamed, cried, whispered. Desperate and hopeful. Most impressive of the relatives of fallen soldiers. What will accompany me until the end of my life, will also haunt me.

Bundeswehr in Afghanistan

55 German soldiers lost their lives in the Hindu Kush. Many returned home crippled physically and mentally. FOR WHAT?

Measured against the noble demands of the first years of the war, the mission in Afghanistan is not a success story. The western capitals dreamed of a model democracy and the suppression of terrorism and extremism. The reality is different. We had to become more humble in our expectations.

Our assessment must be differentiated.

Yes, the country has become more democratic, but it is still miles away from the ideal. Yes, the al-Qaeda terrorist organization no longer operates from Afghanistan; However, numerous Taliban today sympathize with the murderers of ISIS and Islamist terrorists have found new retreat and training opportunities elsewhere.

Yes, investments from abroad have increased, in some parts of the country the economy is even starting to take off, but drug cultivation is still flourishing.

Secret papers of the Bundeswehr

The list goes on. Success and disillusionment always go hand in hand. The fact is: Most people in Afghanistan are better off today than during the barbaric Taliban rule.

This is also thanks to the exemplary commitment of German soldiers, police officers and development workers. Nevertheless, the foundations of stability are more than fragile and the living conditions are miserable compared to our country.

Responsibility for security has now been transferred to the Afghan government. Without further assistance, this battered country is threatened with chaos again. 4,600 Afghan soldiers and police officers died in the first eleven months of this year alone. They are still fighting for a better perspective. But also against our indifference.

Was it wise to set a fixed withdrawal date? No. Nothing makes this clearer than a sentence that we heard repeatedly from leaders of the insurgents: "You have the clocks, we have the time."

For us, the effort may have lasted an eternity. And yet these thirteen years are only the blink of an eye in the bloody history of Afghanistan. So what for?

Despite all the frustration: Germany has taken a responsible place in the international community. In a world in which security no longer knows any borders, we are all challenged to meet existential dangers where they arise. Militarily only when all other means fail.

Many in our country find it difficult to do so. Some want to see German military operations limited to clearing snow and fighting floods in satiated comfort.

But can we just look the other way when there are appalling human rights violations and targeted attacks on the civilian population?

Is it enough to hope for the commitment of other nations and to indulge in a culture of reserve and know-it-all?

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg

Barely. Cynicism, malice and malicious glee must not become a characteristic of the German worldview. Otherwise we don't need to hope for support if we become the target of radical ideologies.

Our fallen and wounded soldiers give us more hope than their tormented families suspect. Hope for a Germany that lives up to its growing responsibility. We owe them gratitude.

Then the what for slowly fades.