Afghanistan situation is ‘bitter, dramatic and terrible’, says Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has described the international mission in Afghanistan as a major disappointment, and said the country would do all it could to get citizens out of the country.

Afghanistan situation is 'bitter, dramatic and terrible', says Merkel
Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Reuters/Pool | Christian Mang

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.

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.


‘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.

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.

Member comments

  1. We overlook the point: the war in Afghanistan was never about so-called “nation-building”, that was a moral put-up job; everyone from the British in the 19th century through the Soviets to this operation knows that a war in the Hindu Kush is unwinnable. The aim was to concentrate the terrorists in a manageable enclave from which they could not launch serious attacks on the West. In other words, employ them in a place far away that no one cares about except those who live there.
    How many serious terrorist attacks have there been in Western countries since the occupation and the Western-funded “Arab Spring”? Yes, a few dead here and there, especially in Nice, but nothing of the order of 9/11 in New York or 7/7 in London or 11-M in Madrid. That was the point of Afghanistan!
    Of course it would never last; the people who are now crying “shame” are the same ones who were previously calling for the withdrawal. Now the terrorists will again have a home-base from which to attack the West, and the whole cycle will recommence.

    1. As George Santayana famously said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

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Germany takes in close to 50,000 refugees in first half of 2021

Left-wing opposition calls for more to be done in second half of year for Afghan asylum seekers.

Germany takes in close to 50,000 refugees in first half of 2021
Soldiers assist a family waiting to be evacuated from Kabul Airport on August 24th, 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/U.S. Marine Corps/AP | Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla

Left Party politicians are pushing the German government to accept a greater number of Afghan refugees after it was revealed that the country had taken less than half of its maximum quota so far in 2021.

According to government figures, Germany accepted around 47,000 refugees in the first half of the year, while more than 11,000 were either deported or denied asylum.

The figures were revealed after the opposition Left Party put in a question to the governing coalition to interrogate its recent track record on accepting refugees.

In the coalition agreement, the CDU/CSU and SPD had pledged to create a route for up to 180,000 to 220,000 refugees to emigrate to Germany each year. 

But if the current trend continues, they would be on track to take 95,000 asylum seekers by the end of 2021 – amounting to less than half of the cap set by Interior Minister Horst Seehofer. 

“In view of the worldwide increase in refugee numbers, this is shameful news, because as a rich country, Germany is thus not living up to its responsibility for refugee protection,” Ulla Jelpke, the Left Party interior spokeswoman said in parliament.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Germany is failing its Afghan helpers – out of fear of repeat of 2015 refugee crisis

Even if Germany were to take in 50,000 particularly vulnerable people from Afghanistan, the country would still fall far short of the upper limit drawn “arbitrarily” by Seehofer, Jelpke added.

Debate over Afghan refugees

As the situation in Afghanistan grows increasingly volatile, German politicians are under pressure to offer assistance to a number of people who could be facing acts of retaliation from the Taliban for aiding Western forces over the past two decades. 

Following talks with neighbouring Uzbekistan on Monday, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) said that assistance would only be offered to those who had already been granted permission to come to Germany.

“We are only concerned with this group of people,” he said. 

READ ALSO: German army evacuates more than 2,700 people from Afghanistan

There are more than 10,000 Afghans on the Foreign Office’s departure lists.

These include former Afghan employees of the German armed forces or ministries – the so-called local staff – and people in need of special protection, such as human rights activists or women’s rights activists.

In addition, there are their family members. As things stand at present, there are more than 40,000 people who could potentially be taken in by Germany – provided they manage to leave the country.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas meets Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov, to discuss the ongoing situation in Afghanistan. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AP | Uncredited

In his comments on Monday, Maas stressed that the remaining rescue operations would take some time.

“There is no time limit,” he said. “This is an issue that will keep us busy for weeks and probably months.”

On Thursday, the last of Germany’s troops and government officials pulled out of Kabul after evacuating around 5,300 people – include 3,600 Afghans. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s evacuation operation in Afghanistan ends

Announcing the end of the evacuations on Twitter, the Defence Ministry said it was not possible to extend the operations due to “security concerns”.

Over the past week, there have been a number of deadly bomb attacks in and around Kabul airport as thousands of people have struggled to make it onto flights out of the country. 

“We will continue to work to protect those who have been left behind,” the German Defence Ministry said.