Fear of radicalisation for disillusioned Afghanistan veterans

Head of German soldiers' group says morale is low after collapse of Nato mission

The fall of Afghanistan could make disillusioned Nato soldiers vulnerable to radicalisation, the head of a German veterans’ group fears.

Bernhard Drescher said morale was at a low point among troops who fought in the 20-year Nato mission only to see it collapse in days to the Taliban.

Mr Drescher, the head of the Union of German Veterans, said a lack of support for former soldiers left them feeling abandoned or struggling to get help.

He highlighted examples of fringe groups previously set up by German veterans. The military has been plagued by claims of far-right extremism in its ranks.

“We are seeing anger and disenchantment over the outcome of the Afghanistan mission,” he told a German television channel.

“There is no system that keeps veterans in the military fold, no clear policy for veterans. People who were injured in combat... are now fighting a second, administrative war against their bosses and the state.

“These people are being emotionally left behind. We have to react to this and act upon it, and take it seriously.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel sought to express solidarity with frustrated soldiers during a parliamentary debate on Wednesday.

There were 59 German military deaths in Afghanistan. Many others suffered physical and mental scars, Mrs Merkel said.

“I can only imagine how great the pain of those who lost relatives in Afghanistan must be right now, since it all seems so futile now."

'Nobody is interested'

There was criticism in parliament from Christian Lindner, the leader of the opposition Free Democrats, who said the frustration of veterans was growing.

“They feel like their decades-long efforts are not being appreciated… and that nobody is interested in their concerns,” he said.

“This is not how we should deal with our soldiers. They did their duty in Afghanistan… and this country and this parliament can be proud of the army.”

In Britain, ministers promised to monitor the mental health of Afghanistan veterans during what the government described as a challenging time.

Several MPs, including some who fought in Afghanistan before entering parliament, raised the issue during a heated emergency debate last week.

A summit between ministers, charities and academics on Wednesday ended with a promise to bring veterans together to help each other in comradeship.

“We will always be indebted for your sacrifice and you played a key role in keeping this country safe from the threat of terrorism,” said Veterans Minister Leo Docherty.

“For those who may be struggling, I urge you to access the range of veterans-specific support available.”

Updated: August 28th 2021, 9:15 AM