Counter Daesh: Germany’s Role in the Fight Against ISIL

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The German intervention against the Islamic State, codenamed “Operation Counter Daesh,” was approved on 4 December 2015. The involvement of the country in the Syrian Civil War and the War in Iraq started with the Bundeswehr assignment in Syria and Iraq to fight the terrorist organization Islamic State. The mission was primarily designed as a reaction to the November 2015 Paris attacks.

The deployment of the Bundeswehr had been a concern from the end of November 2015 within the German government, discussed in parliament, and decided on 4 December 2015 with a majority of the votes of the coalition parties CDU and SPD. As a justification, it was said that the terrorist attacks in Tunisia, Turkey, Beirut, Russia, and especially in Paris had indicated that the terrorist organization operated far beyond their then-controlled territories in Syria and Iraq, endangering European congeniality and security. Furthermore, with the raids in Paris, ISIL had attacked France and the liberal value system of Europe directly. Legally, the right to collective self-defense, according to Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, was mentioned as a justification. In addition, the mission was designed to protect the people in the region from further systematic war crimes.

The Bundeswehr assisted French forces with six Panavia Tornado reconnaissance aircraft and an A310 MRTT deployed to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey and with a frigate. The contingent of 1,200 soldiers is the largest foreign deployment of the Bundeswehr. Because of the risks associated with the problematic situation in the ongoing Syrian Civil War, the policy of the Federal Government with the Bundeswehr mission is controversial

The parliamentary mandate for the mission was valid until 31 December 2016. Another year was extended on 10 November 2016 until 31 December 2017. The military operation was reported to cost 134 million euros.

After disputes with the Turkish government on scheduled visits by members of the German parliament to Incirlik Air Base, in June, the German government determined to halt their operations from there and relocate the 250 German troops, six Tornados, and the A310 MRTT tanker aircraft to Muwaffaq Salti Air Base in Jordan. The tanker arrived in Jordan on 9 July 2017, while all six Tornados were temporarily flown back to Germany. Four of them fled to Jordan and arrived on 4 October 2017. Germany reduced the Tornado fleet from six aircraft to four, citing ISIL’s strength being reduced by that time.

While talking at the inauguration of the Berlin headquarters of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency BND on 8 February 2019, then Chancellor Angela Merkel commented that despite ISIL losing most of its territory in recent years, the terror organization remained “a threat” in Syria. ISIL “is transforming into an asymmetrical warfare force. And this, of course, is a threat,” she stated. Merkel listed monitoring Syria’s situation as the BND’s main priority. “We remain far from peace in Syria,” she added.

The German government concluded its participation in military operations in Syria in January 2022 and extended its mission in Iraq for another nine months.

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