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Germany justifies evacuating just 7 on first Kabul flight

August 17, 2021

The Foreign Ministry blamed the "chaotic circumstances" at Kabul's airport. A second Bundeswehr evacuation flight later flew out 125 people from Kabul.

A German military A400M plane taking off from Germany, bound for Kabul. August 16, 2021.
The Bundeswehr is planning several evacuation flights from Kabul, but acknowledges the security situation could impact the operationImage: Hauke-Christian Dittrich/dpa/picture alliance

Germany's Foreign Ministry on Tuesday issued an explanation for why a Bundeswehr flight to evacuate German nationals from Afghanistan had managed to transport so few people to safety.

"Because of the chaotic circumstances at the [Kabul] airport and regular exchanges of fire at the point of access, it was not ensured that further German nationals and other people to be evacuated would gain access to the airport at all without the protection of the Bundeswehr," it said in a statement.

The ministry's statement came after some media outlets, notably the mass-circulation Bild daily, critically questioned why the flight had taken so few people.

Later on Tuesday, a second German evacuation flight carrying 125 people from Kabul landed in Uzbekistan, officials said. 

The Kabul airport has been the scene of chaos as people try to flee the TalibanImage: AP Photo/picture alliance

'Dangerous, complex situation'

Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer spoke of a "confused, dangerous, complex situation at the airport" caused largely by the crowds of people gathered there in the hope of being flown out.

Kramp-Karrenbauer told the public broadcaster ARD that the main purpose of the initial flight had been to deploy German soldiers in Kabul to protect further evacuation flights.  

"We had only little time, so we took only those people who were really on the spot. And because of the chaotic situation, there was not yet a large number of them at the airport," she said.  

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also noted on Tuesday that the Taliban checks at Kabul's airport were making it difficult to evacuate Afghans who worked with international forces.

"The situation is much more dangerous [for Afghans] because there is no promise of being let through at the Taliban checkpoints," Maas said ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers. 

Mass said German and US forces were working to grant those Afghans safe access to the airport.

From Uzbekistan to Germany

The German Air Force is planning to create an air bridge between Kabul and Uzbekistan's capital, Tashkent, Kramp-Karrenbauer said on Sunday. Bundeswehr planes are to transport German nationals and Afghan helpers to Tashkent before they are taken on to Germany on charter flights.

Western countries such as Germany, the US and the UK are trying to fly their civilian personnel out of Afghanistan after the militant Islamist Taliban group reached Kabul on Sunday following a 10-day campaign during which they took over other major cities.

The small number of people on the German flight contrasted strongly with media reports that a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III plane evacuated some 640 Afghans from Kabul late on Sunday. 

The Taliban ruled Afghanistan once before, from 1996 to 2001Image: Rahmat Gul/AP Photo/picture alliance

'A moral failure'

 The German government has come under considerable criticism for the evacuation operation.

The Green expert for foreign affairs, Omid Nouripour, told the broadcaster Radioeins that the failure to carry out an orderly evacuation was "not just a moral failure, but a failure of the organization; it is terrible for Germany's reputation in the world as a reliable partner."

The head of the Left Party's parliamentary group, Dietmar Bartsch, told the Funke media group it was an "unpardonable failure of the defense minister and the foreign minister" that Afghan support staff had not been taken out of the country at the same time as German troops were withdrawn.

The refugee aid organization Seebrücke has called for demonstrations in several German cities, including Cologne, Bochum, Potsdam and Berlin. A spokeswoman for Seebrücke said the protests would call on the government to evacuate as many people as possible from Afghanistan as soon as possible.

fb, tj/msh (dpa, AFP)

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