In a press conference held on Monday after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, Merkel said the US-led NATO operation achieved less than planned.
“The developments are bitter, dramatic and terrible,” Merkel said. “The development is dramatic for the people of Afghanistan. But it is also bitter for Germany and the other allied nations.”
Merkel said that she shared the pain of families of soldiers killed in the mission “as it seems right now like it was all in vain”. She paid tribute to the 59 German soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan, as well as those who were injured.
The mission managed to stop Al-Qaeda repeating its September 11th, 2001 attack on the United States, but “everything else that has followed has not been as successful and has not been achieved in the way that we had planned,” Merkel told journalists.
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Merkel had not expected the Taliban takeover to be so successful so quickly. “We misjudged the development,” she said.
The Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan on Sunday after the government collapsed, with president Ashraf Ghani conceding the Islamists had won and fleeing the country.
Their victory comes after US and NATO forces began withdrawing from the country in early May, almost 20 years after they arrived.
Merkel said Germany will do all it can to get German citizens and Afghan support staff to safety.
Dramatic videos posted on social media on Monday showed desperate people running next to planes at the airport in a bid to get out of the country.
The Bundeswehr’s evacuation plans are underway, said Merkel. However, the situation in Kabul is difficult.
Afghan journalist Aref Saboor, who assisted the German army, spoke out to say so far no help has arrived from the Bundeswehr to evacuate him and other local staff.
Bundeswehr left us behind. No real evacuation plan for Afghan local employess of German Army, it's all on the media, there's no real plan. Only two options remained, we may get to safety or get killed. We supported thier mission, German government left us behind, what a reward!!!
— Aref Saboor (@aref_saboor) August 16, 2021
- ‘Bitter events’: Merkel says focus in Afghanistan must be on evacuating Germans and those in danger
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‘Misjudged the situation’
Earlier in the day, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Monday admitted NATO allies had underestimated the speed of the Taliban’s advance across Afghanistan and failed to anticipate that Afghan forces were not ready to take up the fight.
“There is no talking this up. All of us – the federal government, intelligence services, the international community – misjudged the situation,” Maas told a press conference in Berlin.
„Die Entwicklungen der letzten Tage sind bitter & werden langfristige Folgen für die Region & für uns haben. Es gibt nichts zu beschönigen: Wir alle – die Bundesregierung, die Nachrichtendienste & die internationale Gemeinschaft – haben die Lage falsch eingeschätzt.“ @HeikoMaas pic.twitter.com/PZR4CC3HlQ
— Auswärtiges Amt (@AuswaertigesAmt) August 16, 2021
The allies had not reckoned with the possibility “that the Afghan armed forces were not prepared to confront the Taliban,” Maas said. “That was a
misjudgement on the part of all of us.”
The Taliban’s return to power and chaotic scenes of people desperately seeking to get on Western military jets to flee Kabul have sparked criticism of the end of the two-decade operation, which cost the alliance thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars in funding.
Armin Laschet, the conservative candidate aiming to succeed Merkel after elections on September 26th, slammed the operation as “the biggest debacle” in NATO’s history.