The Bundeswehr on Operations
Since the 1990s, the Bundeswehr has been active on long-term operations abroad, sometimes for years: initially in Bosnia and later in Kosovo, as well as on combat operations in Afghanistan. At the moment, German soldiers are deployed in Europe, Asia and Africa, as well as in the Mediterranean.
Bundeswehr operations: a colourful history
On these operations abroad, the Bundeswehr makes important contributions to global security and stability. German military personnel have a wide variety of tasks. For example, they train other armed forces, advise security authorities and provide medical care. The Bundeswehr monitors various maritime areas, preventing piracy and protecting World Food Programme shipments. Together with its Allies, the Bundeswehr protects NATONorth Atlantic Treaty Organization’s eastern flank in Lithuania.
The history of the Bundeswehr’s operations starts with the end of the Cold War, and German reunification. UNSCOM in Iraq became the Bundeswehr’s first operation abroad. After the end of the Gulf War, the Bundeswehr participated in the UNUnited Nations mission to monitor CBRN weapons in Iraq. The parliamentary participation required for operations abroad only developed over the course of time. Since 1994, the German Bundestag has made decisions regarding the deployment of Bundeswehr forces abroad. In 2005, the established parliamentary practice resulted in the Parliamentary Participation Act, which is the legal basis for mandating operations abroad to this day. The Bundeswehr has successfully monitored maritime areas, participated in training missions, provided logistic and medical support, and conducted combat operations. The Bundeswehr has now completed almost 30 operations abroad. (BU: UNSCOM in Iraq: the Bundeswehr’s first operation abroad.
Command and control exercised from Potsdam
The Bundeswehr Joint Forces Operations Command is located outside Potsdam, near Berlin. Bundeswehr operations are planned and conducted at this command, which is directly subordinate to the Federal Ministry of Defence. As the operational level of command, the Bundeswehr Joint Forces Operations Command issues the national orders for the contingent commanders in the mission areas. The Bundeswehr Joint Forces Operations Command ensures that the deployment of German forces is in compliance with the mandate and does not violate the laws and regulations of the Federal Republic of Germany. The Commander of the Bundeswehr Joint Forces Operations Command is responsible to the Chief of Defence for command and control of the operational forces subordinate to the Commander.
On operations around the world
Military personnel are currently serving on twelve operations on three continents. They have a wide variety of tasks. For example, German soldiers train Malian, Iraqi, Afghan and Lebanese forces on different missions. On these and other missions, the Bundeswehr also advises national security authorities. In addition, the Bundeswehr monitors various maritime areas. In Operation Atalanta, military personnel help prevent piracy and protect World Food Programme shipments. The Bundeswehr’s largest operation is its contribution to NATONorth Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan with more than 1,000 deployed soldiers. It is the Bundeswehr’s task to train and advise Afghan defence and security forces. Almost 900 German soldiers are deployed on the United Nations-led MINUSMAMultidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali mission in Mali. On this stabilisation mission, the military personnel support the implementation of the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali. They monitor ceasefire agreements and support confidence-building measures between the parties to the conflict.
The Bundeswehr supports peace efforts in other UNUnited Nations missions, such as in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Sudan (UNAMID), South Sudan (UNMISS), Western Sahara (MINURSOUnited Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara) and Yemen (UNMHA).
Altogether, approximately 2,700 military personnel are currently deployed on operations abroad.
Danger as a constant companion
Service abroad entails many dangers. More than 100 German military personnel have lost their lives on operations abroad due to accidents, illness or combat. Military personnel have set up groves of honour in theatre to commemorate their fellow soldiers who died on operations. A central Bundeswehr Memorial at the Federal Ministry of Defence commemorates all members of the Bundeswehr who lost their lives in the line of duty. The Forest of Remembrance, an area of approximately 4,500 square metres at the Bundeswehr Joint Forces Operations Command near Potsdam, complements the Bundeswehr Memorial.
The Bundeswehr will continue to be shaped by its operations in the future. They have become as important as national and collective defence.