The drill for Malian soldiers had Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer certainly presented a little more impressive. On Monday morning, the Minister of Defense is standing in a scorching heat in an EU-based training center for the Malian army in Koulikoro, Niger. Before her, a French soldier conducts a group of Malian soldiers. But in their Kalashnikovs they do not even have blank cartridges. "Bup, Bup, Bup," they instead call on boardmates as they press and aim.
The traveling members of the Bundestag in Kramp-Karrenbauer's entourage begin to whisper during the somewhat bizarre performance. Some giggle, others take selfies. Kramp-Karrenbauer has to resist every little smile, after all, all cameras are focused on her, the still quite new commander.
For two days, the minister visits her soldiers in Niger and Mali. It is her first trip to Africa since taking office.
- Close to the semi-secure capital Bamako, around 80 Germans are stationed in an EU training project for the Malian army.
- Another 760 Bundeswehr soldiers are working in the north of the country to support the sluggish implementation of a peace treaty negotiated years ago between the government and countless militias as part of the UNO MINUSMA mission.
The mission can not be described as a resounding success. "The security situation in Mali is fragile and continues to deteriorate," said Colonel Christian Schmidt in a position statement for the Minister. Since June he has been commanding the German trainers, who are part of EUTM, the EU training mission for the Malian army.
Eight trainers provide the Bundeswehr for the project, the remaining 70 German soldiers take care of security and logistics. Whether the training really brings something? Nobody wants to summon that.
Dramatic connoisseurs of the region describe the situation.
"Despite the considerable, international presence that has lasted for years, it has not been possible to sustainably improve the security apparatus or limit the activities of terrorist groups," says David Schiller from the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in the capital Bamako. Instead, Mali is developing into a kind of hotbed for terrorist militias that endanger neighboring states as well. The Minister prefers to stay abroad, she speaks of great challenges.
The question of the meaning of the mission is not new. Predecessor Ursula von der Leyen learned during her travels in Africa that the Germans in Gao in the north of the country can secure a kind of bubble of about 75 kilometers around the Camp Castor and keep them free of terrorist groups. But the Bundeswehr can not get further out, otherwise you would not be able to save the comrades in attacks fast enough.
"The terrorists are well aware of our reach," officers in Gao say, "they have adapted their routes to it." How tense the situation in the north is, Kramp-Karrenbauer gets reported just on Monday morning.
- About 450 kilometers away from Gao, a patrol of the UN is attacked, a blue-helmeted soldier dies.
- Also in the south there were violent attacks on a camp of the Malian army in the days before, 28 dead are to be lamented.
- As if proof were needed of how desperate local security forces are, support troops then refuse to rush to help their comrades. They were afraid of a suicide mission.
But Kramp-Karrenbauer remains vague about the mission's future in Mali. Noticeably vague. She talks a lot about the harsh climatic conditions, the soldiers' needs and their great gratitude. Only in Gao, where she lands in the shadow at 41 degrees on Tuesday, she says, one must think in the coming months about an adaptation and change in the mission. In addition, it is currently being discussed whether "the protective objects" of the UN mission must be expanded. At any rate, she expects "that we stay here longer."
Arne Immanuel Bänsch / DPA
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer in Mali
What the minister only suggests is already being planned in her house. In June, for example, the UN decided to expand the operational area of its Minusma mission and also to secure the so-called center of Mali with troops. Intra-ethnic conflicts are currently escalating there. Almost every week veritable massacres of various ethnic groups shock the whole country. Therefore, in Mopti, about 600 kilometers south of Gao, a similar regional command as in the north of the country arise.
The Germans are likely to be among the first among the Western United States to be asked to expand - after all, Berlin has repeatedly promised to assume more responsibility internationally. At the same time, the French, the only nation with the mission "Barkhane" to attack terrorists in Mali offensively and at high risk, want the Bundeswehr to send special forces to Mali. At the latest then would the stabilization operation a combat mission.
For the Minister, planning at home in Berlin is a political problem. In the spring, the Bundeswehr's Mali mandate must be extended by the Bundestag. Even the continuation of the mission is not easy with the SPD as a partner. Many in the faction would like to end as a symbol one of the current foreign missions of the Bundeswehr.
An expansion of the field of application or even ideas for a more robust use of the coalition partners should certainly refuse.
So Kramp-Karrenbauer is under considerable pressure. An evaluation of the EU training mission will be ready in December. Already today, the French push for this mission, similar to how they used to fight in Afghanistan with their protégés.
If Paris enforces this demand in the EU, Germany would probably have to adapt to pressure from the SPD and leave the mission in Koulikoro.