The current debate for a deployment of the Bundeswehr on German soil to fight Terrorism

Essay, 2017

25 Pages, Grade: A


Table of Contents



1. Current Level of Threat

2. German National Counter-Terrorism Actors
2.1. Intelligence services & police forces
2.2. Evaluation of the counter-terrorism actors and measures

3. The Bundeswehr
3.1. Weißbuch 2016

4. Deployment on German soil
4.1. Legal Basis
4.1.1. Internal state emergency (Article 87a, section 4)
4.1.2. State of Defence (Article 87a, section 3) 13
4.1.3. Administrative assistance & Disaster relief (Article 35)
4.2. Political Debate




Since September 11th, 2001, Western democracies have been confronted with new threats in the form of Islamist terrorism. The attacks of 9/11 showed how vulnerable Western states are, despite their military presences around the globe. Over the years, the hope that the attacks of 2001 would not reoccur has been destroyed following other attacks, such as the train attacks in Madrid in 2004, the London bombings in 2005, the Paris attacks of 2015, the attack on Brussels in 2016, and the attack on a Christmas market in Berlin in 2016. Terrorism has arrived on European soil. A new form of terrorism arose with 9/11, which Dr. Peter Neumann, from Kings College London and a leading expert on terrorism in Europe, categorises as being transnationally orientated and religiously motivated (Neumann, 2009). This new form of terrorism, international Islamist terrorism, has become an unpredictable threat, difficult to counter. Since 2001, however, several counter measures, regarding internal security, have been implemented in European countries to prevent terrorist attacks. Particularly in Germany, one question has dominated the political stage: whether the use of the German Armed Forces, the Bundeswehr, on German soil to fight terrorism should be allowed. This question came to the fore when the Federal Minister of Defence stated ‘Germany is still in the focus of the international terrorism’ (Bundespolizei, n.d.(b)). This paper discusses the pros and cons of deploying the Bundeswehr on German soil to fight terrorism. It begins with a consideration of the current level of terrorist threat in Germany. The second chapter addresses the national measures and actors pursued by Germany to fight terrorism. It questions whether Germany is doing enough to fight terrorism, or if an internal deployment is necessary. Chapter 3 discusses the German Armed Forces, the Bundeswehr, its tasks, the legal basis for deployment, and whether the Bundeswehr is qualified for such a deployment. The fourth chapter reviews the political debate regarding the deployment of the Bundeswehr on German soil. It highlights the positions of the four large political parties (Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Left, and the Greens). In the conclusion, the arguments are reflected upon, and further points of discussion are presented.


This paper provides an answer to whether the Bundeswehr should be deployed on German soil to fight terrorism. Qualitative research is used to answer the research question. The main research method included examining and analysing existing academic literature. A combination of primary sources, e.g. official documents from the German Federal Government, the Bundestag, and secondary sources, e.g. German newspapers and political scholars. The official documents were selected according to the topic of counter-terrorism measures and their deployment on German soil, and according to year of publication. The documents relating to the discussion of the deployment range from 2015 to 2017, while the sources used for the descriptive section range from 2001 to 2017. The limitation of the time frame for the discussion of the deployment was based on the changed threat level following the Paris attacks in 2015 and the rise of Islamic State (IS), and the increasing number of foreign fighters for the terrorist organisation, IS. This research paper combines descriptive and evaluative sections using textual analysis.

1. Current level of threat

For a long time, the West has been the focus of international Islamist terrorist groups. Several video messages by former Al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, and by so-called IS, show that the Western world has been targeted because such groups disregard and condemn Western tradition and values. With the attacks in London in 2005, and Madrid in 2004, European countries became aware that they were not going to escape this new form of terrorism. The attacks in Paris in November 2015, Brussels in 2016, and the attack in Nice in the same year brought this realisation home.

This new form of terrorism, with its decentralised and network-like structure, is more difficult to identify. It is no longer a question of whether there will be an attack, but a question of when. The number of foiled in recent years, such as the attempted suitcase bombs on two German trains in 2006, which only failed to cause harm because of a malfunction in the detonator, proves how vulnerable Germany has become. Also, the arrest of the so-called ‘Sauerland Group’ (a sub-group of the Islamic Jihad Union) in 2007; the attack on US soldiers at the Frankfurt International Airport in 2011; the arrest of the so-called ‘Düsseldorfer cell’ (a group of three suspected Al-Qaeda members); the attempted attack on the football stadium in Hannover in November 2015; and the attempted attack on one of the airports in Berlin by a Syrian refugee named Al-Bakr, show that terrorism has arrived in Germany. There are probably more foiled attacks that have not become public knowledge.

The attacks in summer 2016 in Würzburg and Ansbach, and the attack on a Christmas market in Berlin in December 2016, proved that Germany is no longer to be spared from Islamist terrorist attacks. The President of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Dr. Hans-Georg Maaßen, stated, ‘we have an unchanged high current level of threat in Germany. Germany has become a prioritised target of IS in 2016. […] The potential of violence-orientated Islamists in Germany is growing continuously […]’ (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, n.d.(b)). Additionally, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution indicates that ‘terrorist attacks in Germany are possible at any time’ (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, n.d.(b)). These estimates are based on numerous references to terrorist attacks. According to the Federal Office, the number of concrete references to terrorist attacks has tripled since 2013 (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, n.d.(b)). In addition, Prof. Peter Neumann said, on the talk show ‘Eins zu eins’, in October 2016, that the level of threat remains high. He argues that this is a result of ‘the consequences of the Arab Spring, the civil war in Syria, and the rise of the Islamic State (IS)’, and also the rise in Salafist movements in Europe and their departures to Syria, which, according to Neumann, have seen approximately 5,000 Europeans leaving for Syria in 2013/2014 (Eins zu eins, 2016).

2. German national counter-terrorism actors

In this chapter, the actors involved in combating terrorism are described and assessed. First, it needs to be noted that, in Germany, the Basic Law (Grundgesetz) is the legal foundation, with special attention paid to the separation of power, because it is the basis of the rule of law and aims to prevent the misuse of the state. The three branches – legislative (the Bundestag, the Federal Council, and regional parliaments); executive (the Chancellor, the Federal Cabinet, the Federal President, the prime ministers of the federal states, and the state cabinets); and judiciary – complement one another, to the extent that laws are adopted by the legislature, while the executive and judiciary serve the function of law enforcement. The principle of state organisation in Germany is federalism, and has been since the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany, which has been constitutionally anchored in the Basic Law since 1949. One of the main characteristics of the federal system in Germany is the close cooperation between the Federal Government and the federal states (Bundesländer). Another characteristic is that the federal states do not have to confer their entire power to the Federal Government; keeping certain powers for themselves. In this sense, federal states are responsible for areas including internal security, such as the police; whereas the Bundestag is responsible for matters that affect the entire country, including foreign policy. Additionally, federal states can exert influence at federal level via the Federal Council, in which each federal state is represented and are able to influence legislation.

2.1. Intelligence services and police forces

The actors involved in counter-terrorism actions come from all three branches of government; however, due to the subject matter, this chapter only focuses on those from the executive, including the intelligence services and the two branches of police.

The main task of the intelligence services is to protect the constitutional system, identify potential perpetrators, and identify and evaluate potential threats. In Germany, there are three intelligence agencies: the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Verfassungsschutz); the Federal Intelligence Service (Bundesnachrichtendienst, BND); and the Military Counterespionage Service (Militärischer Abschirmdienst, MAD). These three agencies are connected to domestic intelligence (the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution), foreign intelligence (BND), and to military defence (MAD). They are assigned to a specific federal ministry: the BND is assigned to the Federal Chancellery; the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution is assigned to the Federal Ministry of the Interior; and the MAD is assigned to the Federal Ministry of Defence. All three are controlled by the Parliamentary Control Panel (PKGr) of the Bundestag, according to Article 45d of the Basic Law. Moreover, the Federal Chancellery Minister, who is responsible for coordinating the collaboration between all three intelligence agencies, controls them (Die Bundesregierung, n.d.).

In 1949, the Bundestag established the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution to protect the democratic system and order. It is only permitted to operate in federal affairs (Horn, 2013, p.53). Its tasks include gathering information on issues that are ‘directed against the free democratic basic order or against the existence and the security of the Federation or one of its states’ (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, n.d.(c)). The Federal Office works closely with the intelligence agencies of the federal states, which have their own Länder Offices for the Protection of the Constitution (Landesbehörde für Verfassungsschutz LfV), while others have a department for the protection of the constitution integrated in the federal states’ ministries.

The BND is the second intelligence service. It is controlled by the Federal Chancellery (Bundeskanzleramt) and its duties include the collection of information relating to foreign affairs and matters of security, including political, economic, and technical developments (Bundesnachrichtendienst, n.d.). The legal basis for the BND is the Act of the Federal Intelligence Service (BNDG), which clarifies its competences and power.

The third intelligence service is the MAD. As mentioned above, the MAD is assigned to the Federal Ministry of Defence, and its powers are laid down is the Act of the Military Counterespionage Service (MADG) (Militärischer Abschirmdienst, 2017). According to Horn (2013, p.55), the MAD gathers information relating to the activities of those people who jeopardise German security, originating from military personnel or from those targeting military personnel. All three services are required to cooperate.

Another actor involved in countering terrorism is the police. In Germany, the concept of federalism is also recognised in the police structure; there is the federal police force (Bundespolizei) and the federal state police (Landespolizei). Their responsibilities consist of law enforcement and emergency response. The federal police force undertakes tasks related to the Federal Government, which includes securing embassies, airports, and railway stations, as well as being on board airplanes (Sky Marshalls). It also prevents illegal border crossings. It is assigned to the Federal Ministry of the Interior. The state police is responsible for the tasks of federal states and can only act within each state, while the federal police force has powers across Germany.

The federal police force has an anti-terrorist special unit (GSG 9), while at the federal state level, a special commando unit, the SEK (Sondereinsatzkommando), exists. GSG 9 is a special police unit that, among other things, is specialised in hostage clearance and bomb disposal (Bundespolizei, n.d.(a)).

In 2015, a new special ‘Anti-Terror-Unit’ (BFE+) was established, in response to the increasing terror threat. The BFE+ is supposed to increase the perseverance capacity and reaction of the federal police force in the event of an attack in Germany. Its role is to apprehend potential attackers, search for terror suspects, and protect and evacuate innocent people (Bundespolizei, n.d.(b)).

The Joint Counter-Terrorism Centre GTAZ (Gemeinsames Terrorismus Abwehrzentrum) is not an independent agency, but rather a ‘ cooperation platform ’ of the German intelligence and security agencies (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, n.d.(c)). The centre strengthens the exchange of information between all branches.

2.2. Evaluation of counter-terrorism actors

After providing details relating to the actors to counter terrorism, there now follows a discussion about their effectiveness.

One of the main problems in Germany can be seen in its federal system; there are different police branches with competences limited to either the federal or state level and also each federal state has its own Länder Office for the Protection of the Constitution, which leads to chaos in the information sharing process. In the past, there has been a problem regarding which department had certain information but did not share it with the other departments, or with agencies at federal level. While there have been problems with the information sharing, it appears that the separation on the federal and state level and also within the intelligence agencies is necessary in order to have clearly separated application fields. Further, the GTAZ, which should function as a cooperation platform has only been created recently and cannot be evaluated but the future will show how effective it will work in order to strengthen the exchange of information.

In 2004, the then Federal Minister of the Interior, Otto Schilly, criticised the federal structure and called it a ‘security threat’ because the cooperation between the federal states and the Federation produced some problems (Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung, 2013, p.53). Even though the federal structure prevents any abuse of competencies, it also seems to create competencies-chaos. What is needed is a disentanglement of the competences, but the federal states are unwilling to relinquish their powers, and the constitution states that internal security is the duty of the federal states.


Excerpt out of 25 pages


The current debate for a deployment of the Bundeswehr on German soil to fight Terrorism
University of Aberdeen  (Social Sciences)
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ISBN (Book)
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Bundeswehr, Counter-Terrorism, Terrorism, Deployment, German, Fight
Quote paper
Kim-Laura Woehlk (Author), 2017, The current debate for a deployment of the Bundeswehr on German soil to fight Terrorism, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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