He has become grayer. Political affairs are exhausting, as anyone can see today who is again consciously aware of the Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany. Heiko Maas hasn’t flickered so much on the screens lately. This is not only due to the recently ended holiday in South Tyrol with cycling and hiking. Also for that the…
He has become grayer. Political affairs are exhausting, as anyone can see today who is again consciously aware of the Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany. Heiko Maas hasn’t flickered so much on the screens lately. This is not only due to the recently ended holiday in South Tyrol with cycling and hiking. Even before that, the Social Democrat wasn’t exactly the most notable chief diplomat of all time. The big questions are clarified in the Chancellery, progress in Libya, in whose pacification the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs is investing heavily, is arduous, and the multilateralist alliance founded by Heiko Maas is not exactly a road sweeper.
But now he’s in the middle of it, instead of just being there. The collapse of the Afghan state, which is supported by the West, does not require fundamental discussions on foreign policy, but concrete operational action. The crisis team of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the Werderscher Markt in Berlin-Mitte makes decisions about nothing less than life and death. This clearly draws the attention of Heiko Maas, who has not been the best in the Afghanistan fiasco in recent days.
Row by row, earlier statements have fallen on his feet, which painted a very different picture of the situation in the Hindu Kush. In June, he appealed to the Bundestag to understand the Afghan government’s concerns that leaving the armed forces or embassy staff too soon could signal an exodus.
Just a week ago, Maas rejected the idea that the nearly two-decade operation would have been for nothing. Instead, long after the Taliban invaded the capital Kabul, he believed they could force them into a peace process and political commitments by threatening them without financial aid. In the assessment of the situation by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, based on the intelligence information, it was incorrectly assumed that there was still sufficient time for diplomatic initiatives and, if necessary, evacuation.
This blatant error of judgment, which Maas had to admit, would certainly be grounds for dismissal. Even though the chancellor, the defense minister and the interior minister have their share of the failure, Maas is the leading minister in Afghan policy. Green foreign politician Omid Nouripour describes it as “minus inter pares”. Maas can only defend himself by the fact that the Americans, British and French also make a colossal mistake.
A particularly serious incident, which directly affected the security of his own embassy staff in Kabul, was added in the case of the German foreign minister. While the British were already packing their belongings on Friday in view of the deteriorating security situation, German embassy staff waited in vain for the order from Berlin on Saturday, the ARD capital studio reported. It was not until Sunday morning that it was brought to the airport by American helicopters, possibly even on its own initiative. Warning messages from the diplomatic department on the ground at Berlin headquarters are said to have been ignored.
Heiko Maas had to answer questions in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Bundestag this Wednesday. The MPs have come from the summer holidays or the election campaign to have a first conversation about the disaster that many will have to follow. The responsible minister “aggressively defended himself” behind the closed doors of the Reichstag building, Jürgen Hardt, the foreign policy spokesman for the Union’s parliamentary faction, reported afterwards. Maas maintains his line that Germany should be represented in Afghanistan for as long as possible – when the embassy staff left, they were accompanied by their colleagues from France and Japan.
Fully aware of the role of the efficient and internationally well-networked crisis manager, the Secretary of State informs parliamentarians that his US counterpart Antony Blinken has assured him that the Americans will use Kabul airport “at least until August 31”. will keep open. This is good news in the midst of a deluge of bad news, as it was initially rumored that there would be only 72 hours left for as many Afghan aid workers as possible to leave. But how the brilliant misjudgment of the overall situation could have come about remains a mystery even after this first account statement.
“This question,” says FDP foreign policy officer Bijan Djir-Sarai, “stays in the room.” The magnitude of the foreign policy debacle is such that these probing questions will accompany Maas over the coming weeks and months — weakening them politically. Last week, 54-year-old Saarlander expressed hope that he would be able to retain his office in the next federal government after the election. “This is an extremely interesting, great office in which you learn a lot,” said Maas: “About the world and about Germany, but also about how Germany is seen in the world – namely, much better than sometimes Germany is spoken.” In In any case, Afghanistan has changed that today – and Maas is partly to blame for this.
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