The grand duchy's military projects continue to stir controversy. Are these useless expenses or valid contributions to the defence of our allies?

On Monday, members of the parliamentary defence committee debated Luxembourg's military mission in Afghanistan. Discussions also revolved around the A400M military aircraft and the country's observation satellite. The MPs disagreed mainly regarding the necessity and the legal framework of these projects.

Since 2015, Luxembourg's army has participated in a NATO mission in Afghanistan. Two Luxembourgers, a non-commissioned officer and a soldier, were dispatched to Afghanistan on 4-months deployments, in order to help local NATO forces to stabilise the country. The Luxembourg soldiers are not involved in combat situations.

The mission has been extended to 2020, and rightly so, says socialist Marc Angel (LSAP), because the region still suffers from the Taliban presence. In his eyes, the current situation has significantly improved as compared to the early 2000s, when the Taliban held a firm grip on most regions.

Marc Baum from The Left, disagreed with this analysis. He argued that since 2014, the country has been far from stable and that the government was in control of little more than the capital city Kabul. Baum also voiced criticism of the military intervention and insinuated that the latter may have been counterproductive.

The A400M: a €650 million military aircraft

The purchase of Luxembourg's own A400M military aircraft - to be delivered in 2020 - also stirred debate among the politicians. The aircraft itself was expensive and its management, jointly provided by Belgium and Luxembourg, will cost between €11 million and €12 million per year. According to conservative member Jean-Marie Halsdorf (CSV), this is a huge but necessary investment.

The same is true for Luxembourg's observation satellite. As Halsdorf explained, the grand duchy is small and in need of alliances. Belgium has always been Luxembourg's first ally, and military projects are therefore discussed and agreed upon with the neighbouring country. According to Halsdorf, Luxembourg now sits in that boat and won't be able to get out of it easily.

The satellite: a war tool?

The new observation satellite will cost $170 million, payable over 12 years. In the context of the satellite, however, it is not the price that polarised but rather the use that will be made. If the US government asked for satellite images of a distant region that they want to target with strikes, Baum argued, Luxembourg would become their "belligerent partner." In Baum's eyes, this is sheer "madness."

The parliamentarians agreed that such a satellite raises a number of legal questions. The launch of the satellite is scheduled for 2020, and the satellite should be operational one year later.