Some saw it coming, others were surprised: Germany is now trying to help people escape Afghanistan after a Taliban takeover | Photo: Picture-alliance/Marc Tessensohn/Bundeswehr
Some saw it coming, others were surprised: Germany is now trying to help people escape Afghanistan after a Taliban takeover | Photo: Picture-alliance/Marc Tessensohn/Bundeswehr

States have called on Interior Minister Seehofer to start a new Afghan refugee program for people who helped German forces on site. One coordinator told DW he had been lobbying Angela Merkel to get people out for months.

Germany, like other Western countries now pulling out of Afghanistan, is desperately scrambling to organize the evacuation of locals who assisted its military and humanitarian missions over the past 20 years.

On Wednesday, German state interior ministers, following the lead of Lower Saxony's Boris Pistorius, called on Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer to initiate a new federal program for the admission of Afghan refugees in Germany.

Pistorius said a federal program would be a "faster and more efficient solution" than if individual states tried to organize extractions.

The Social Democrat (SPD) pledged whole-hearted support for any such operation, though, saying the federal government "can count on the states."

"Preparations have already begun and we have the capacity" to take in Afghans who worked for German development agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) but also journalists and human rights activists, he said.

Pistorius urged Seehofer to push other EU foreign ministers to take in Afghans now threatened by the Taliban. He also underscored the scale of the problem, noting, "Germany will not be able to shoulder the load on its own. This calls for solidarity from Europe's community of nations."

He suggested the federal government speak with Afghanistan's regional neighbors about taking in Afghan refugees as well.

Germany has to deal with Taliban to get people out of Afghanistan

Roderich Kiesewetter, a top lawmaker in Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and a military veteran himself, told DW the Foreign Ministry should, "start negotiations with the Taliban" in order "to have a chance to retrieve the people who have supported us for about two decades."

But Kiesewetter, who sits on the Bundestag's Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, warned some Afghan staff who worked with Germany's army in the north of the country could be left behind: "We have no idea how to evacuate them."

German military sponsors: 'Everything is definitely too late'

Calls for urgent action have been coming from the German army, the Bundeswehr, as well.

Lucas Wehner, who works for an organization of volunteer Bundeswehr members acting as sponsors for Afghan staff who assisted the German mission, told DW: "We had three local safe houses in Kabul. We had to dissolve them due to the fact that the Taliban captured Kabul. And, of course, this was in the end a trap for our local staff." Now "they're pretty much scattered all over Kabul, in the streets, and it's hard to reach them."

Like many, Wehner said his group was frustrated: "We have talked to the German government for the last two years but especially for the last two months. We sent letters to the chancellor. We got the human rights spokespeople of four political parties in the German Bundestag to write a letter to the German chancellor and nothing worked. So now we are in the situation that we are in, and everything is definitely too late."

On Monday, Reuters news agency reported that German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas had told members of the Bundestag's Foreign Relations Committee that the Bundeswehr had so far evacuated 169 Germans, 49 EU citizens, 103 Afghans and four non-EU individuals from Kabul.

js/msh (KNA, Reuters)

First published: August 18, 2021

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