Status of Foreign Deployments

Stephan Wallace

Defense and Security Policy Analyst

Stephan Wallace is a defense and security policy analyst following political, military, and economic developments in Europe. He has worked more than 33 years on this area for the U.S. government, most recently for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Germany has about 4,900 military personnel deployed in multinational peace support operations.  Mandates for these deployments must be approved by the Bundestag and are usually limited to a period of 12 months, after which the Bundestag must approve an extension if the mission is to continue.As of 5 March. Troop levels are the number of troops present for duty, which can fluctuate daily.[1]

StatusOfForeignDeploymentsExtension of the ISAF Mandate in Afghanistan.  On 5 February, the cabinet approved an extension of the mandate for German military contributions to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan through the end of 2014, when the current UN Security Council Resolution authorizing the mission and the NATO approved operations plan expire.  The extended mandate, which was approved by the Bundestag 20 February by a vote of 498 to 84, reduced the ceiling for German troop levels in Afghanistan from 4,400 to 3,300 and included additional logistics personnel assigned to pack up and return material and supplies to Germany.[2]

The German government plans to contribute to a post-ISAF NATO-led training and advisory mission in Afghanistan, provided the United States and Afghanistan are able to conclude a new security cooperation agreement that will provide a suitable legal basis for the continued presence of NATO forces. [3] The German military would provide between 600 and 800 troops to the new mission, which is not expected to involve combat operations.  In talks with President Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan on 9 February, Steinmeier stressed the importance of quickly signing a new security cooperation agreement, both for planning and to convince the German public and parliament to support the mission.[4]

As the ISAF mission winds down, Germany and its NATO allies will focus more on civilian assistance and reconstruction operations intended to enhance Afghanistan’s social, economic, and political stability.  The German government has announced plans to invest up to €430 million annually in economic cooperation and development projects through at least 2016.[5]  In early March, Germany’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development presented a new development policy strategy for cooperation with Afghanistan during the period 2014-2017.[6]  It calls for more focus on good government and measures to promote employment, especially in rural agricultural areas.  More effort also will be devoted to education and professional development.[7]

Extension of Mandates for Operations ACTIVE FENCE and ACTIVE ENDEAVOR.  In its first meeting on 8 January, the new cabinet agreed on extensions for Germany’s deployment of Patriot air and missile defense systems along Turkey’s border with Syria (NATO Operation ACTIVE FENCE) and for German participation in NATO’s maritime security and counterterrorism patrols in the Mediterranean Sea as part of Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOR (OAE). The Bundestag approved both decisions 29 January, voting 523 to 71 to extend the Patriot deployment, and 467 to 129 to extend German participation in OAE.  The extended mandates allow the Bundeswehr to maintain two Patriot air and missile defense batteries with up to 400 troops in southeastern Turkey and a naval force with up to 500 troops in OAE. [8]

Foreign Minister Steinmeier acknowledged during the Bundestag’s first reading of the OAE mandate extension on 16 January that the operational reality of the mission no longer corresponds to the original NATO Article 5 basis on which it was launched following the 9/11 attacks on the United States. He said it has evolved from a counterterrorism operation into a surveillance and observation mission for maintaining situational awareness and promoting cooperation in the Mediterranean. Steinmeier argued that the 11-month mandate extension and reduced troop ceiling (from 700 to 500) will provide a bridging solution to allow time for negotiations with NATO allies on a new legal basis for the mission.  He claimed to have broad support from other NATO members for the change, but said it is still necessary to convince two NATO members that have a different opinion.[9]

Continuing Support to Counterpiracy Operation ATALANTA.  German representatives at the 4 March force generation conference in Brussels announced plans to continue their contribution to the EU’s counterpiracy operation off the Horn of Africa, contingent on the Bundestag’s extension of the mandate that expires on 31 May.  Germany currently provides a frigate and a P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft as part of its 330-member contingent, which operates out of French facilities in Djibouti. The main area of operations is the Gulf of Aden and the waters of the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Somalia.[10]

UNIFIL Maritime Task Force.  Germany supports the Maritime Task Force of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) with two guided-missile fast patrol boats operating from the port of Limassol in southern Cyprus.  The Maritime Task Force patrols the waters off the coast of Lebanon to interdict shipments of weapons intended for Hezbollah.  The German contingent also trains members of the Lebanese Navy.  The current mandate for the mission expires at the end of June, when it likely will be extended for another year by the Bundestag.[11]

The German Navy also rotates its three Oste-Class electronic surveillance ships on deployments to the eastern Mediterranean.  Although deployed as national assets, they collect information to support the UNIFIL mission as well as fulfill national intelligence tasks such as monitoring the situation inside Syria.  The electronic surveillance ship Alster departed its home port of Eckernförde 24 February for a 4-month deployment to the eastern Mediterranean and is expected to return at the end of June.[12]

  • German Navy LCDR Frédéric Strauch, deputy commander of the squadron operating  the electronic surveillance ships, said the information they collect allows Germany to make its own independent assessments of the situation free of any foreign influences.[13]

Maintaining Stability in Kosovo.  Germany’s contribution to the NATO-led peace support operation in Kosovo (KFOR) numbers about 700 troops.  Its main elements include KFOR headquarters support in Pristina, medical and logistics units in Prizren, and a maneuver company in Novo Selo tasked with maintaining order and freedom of movement in northern Kosovo.[14]  Defense Ministry Parliamentary State Secretary Brauksiepe visited the German contingent in early March to make a personal assessment of the situation and of the contributions made by German troops to peace and stability in Kosovo. He reiterated that Germany will continue to support the mission at the current level until NATO members decide the political and security criteria for further reductions in KFOR force levels have been met.[15]  KFOR is currently holding the second phase of its planned three-phase drawdown of forces in Kosovo but does not believe the situation is stable enough to move forward with phase three.  The third phase would see a reduction in force levels from about 4,900 troops to fewer than 2,500.[16]

Expanding Commitments in Africa.  Germany will increase its military contributions to multinational operations in Africa in response to unrest in Mali and the Central African Republic, French calls for more assistance from its European allies, and Germany’s interest in developing the EU’s common defense and security policy. Defense Minister von der Leyen emphasized in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that the Bundeswehr will provide advice, training, transportation, and medical support but has no plans to engage in combat operations.[17]

  • The Bundestag has approved an increase the size of Germany’s contribution the EU Training Mission in Mali in an effort to relieve the burden on French troops there.  Germany and France also agreed at their joint ministerial meeting 19 February in Paris to deploy elements of the Franco-German brigade for the first time to support this effort.[18]
  • Germany has offered medical evacuation aircraft and headquarters staff to support the EU stabilization mission in the Central African Republic.[19]
  • The Bundeswehr plans to join the EU training mission in Somalia in April and send up to 20 troops to Mogadishu, according to a Defense Ministry spokesman.[20]


Stephan Wallace is a defense and security policy analyst following political, military, and economic developments in Europe. He has worked more than 33 years on this area for the U.S. government, most recently for the U.S. Department of Defense. He can be contacted by email at The views expressed are those of the author alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American-German Institute (AGI).

[1] “Einsatzzahlen – Die Stärke der deutsche Einsatzkontingente,” BMVg, 7 February 2014; “ÜBERSICHT ÜBER BESTEHENDE AUSLANDSMANDATE DER BUNDESWEHR,” Deutscher Bundestag, 26 February 2014.

[2] “Bundeswehr weiter in Afghanistan,” Bundesregierung, 5 February 2014; “ISAF-Mandat letzmalig vom Deutschen Bundestag verlängert,” BMVg, 20 February 2013.

[3] Bundeswehr weiter in Afghanistan, German Government.

[4] “Außenminister Steinmeier in Afghanistan,” Auswärtiges Amt, 9 Feb 2014.

[5] “Bundeswehr weiter in Afghanistan,” Bundesregierung, 5 February 2014

[6] “Verlässliche Partnerschaft in Zeiten des Umbruchs – Neue entwicklungspolitische Strategie für die Zusammenarbeit mit Afghanistan im Zeitraum 2014-2017,” BMZ, 3 March 2014

[7] “Verlässliche Partnerschaft in Zeiten des Umbruchs – Neue entwicklungspolitische Strategie für die Zusammenarbeit mit Afghanistan im Zeitraum 2014-2017,” BMZ, 3 March 2014; “Neue Afghanistan-Länderstrategie: Verlässliche Partner in Zeiten des Umbruchs,” BMZ, 12 March 2014.

[8] “Bundestag stimmt Einsätzen der Bundeswehr in der Türkei und im Mittelmeer zu,” Auswärtiges Amt, 29 January 2014.

[9] Frank-Walter Steinmeier, “Rede von Außenminister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in der ersten Lesung zur Verlängerung des Mandats für die Fortsetzung der deutschen Beteiligung an der Operation Active Endeavor (OAE) am 16. Januar 2014 im Deutschen Bundestag,” Auswärtiges Amt.

[10] “Aktuelle Lage in den Einsatzgebieten der Bundeswehr,” BMVg Presse- und Informationsstab, 7 March 2014.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Dana Schubert, “Mit Schutzengel auf Fahrt – Flottendienstboot ‘Alster’ ausgelaufen,” German Navy, 27 February 2014; Kai Pörksen, “Lauschen im Mittelmeer,” Kieler Nachrichten, 24 February 2014.

[13] Kai Pörksen, “Lauschen im Mittelmeer,” Kieler Nachrichten, 24 February 2014.

[14] Stephan Nakszynski, “Die Kosovo Force heute,” BMVg, 15 January 2014.

[15] Dethold Webschach, “Aller Ehren wert,” BMVg, 5 March 2014.

[16] Stephan Nakszynski, “Die Kosovo Force heute,” BMVg, 15 January 2014.

[17] Ursula von der Leyen, “Ursula von der Leyen im Gespräch ‘Alleingänge mit deutschen Soldaten wird es nich geben,’” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 11 February 2014.

[18] “Mehr Ausbildung in Mali,” Bundesregierung; 20 February 2014; “Erklärung des Rates des Deutsch-französischen Verteidigungs- und Sicherheitsrats (DFVSR),” Auswärtiges Amt, 19 February 2014.

[19] Matthias Gebauer, “Bundeswehr will doch Soldaten nach Bangui schicken,” Spiegel On-line, 25 February 2014.

[20] “Bundeswehr mit 20 Soldaten nach Somalia,” Der Tagesspiegel, 4 March 2014.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American-German Institute.