Germany rescues more than 1,600 people from Afghanistan amid fears of revenge Taliban acts

The German army has evacuated more than 1,600 people from Afghanistan since Monday as fears grow over revenge acts by the Taliban.

Germany rescues more than 1,600 people from Afghanistan amid fears of revenge Taliban acts
Evacuees from Kabul being assisted by the Bundeswehr earlier this week. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Bundeswehr | Marc Tessensohn

The Bundeswehr (German army) has brought more than 1,600 people out of the Afghanistan capital Kabul to safety through its airlift operation so far, DPA said on Friday morning. 

Two more planes from Kabul carrying a total of more than 360 people landed in the Uzbekistan capital of Tashkent early Friday. From there, the refugees – including German citizens and Afghan support colleagues – will be taken onward to Germany by civilian aircraft.

But there may still be hundreds of German citizens in Afghanistan – more than previously thought, experts fear. According to DPA, “a mid-three-digit number” of Germans have registered on a Foreign Office list.

About 60 Afghan local staff and their relatives, including several children, arrived in the state of Brandenburg early on Friday, the state reported. 

They will spend three days in quarantine before being moved to other accommodation. 


A NATO official told Reuters news agency that more than 18,000 refugees have been flown out of Kabul airport by allied forces since the Taliban swept to power at the start of this week. 

Relative of journalist ‘killed by Taliban’

The desperate evacuation by allies in Kabul is happening while concerns are growing over the behaviour of the militant group.

Taliban fighters shot and killed a relative of a Deutsche Welle journalist while hunting for him, the German public broadcaster said.

The militants were conducting a house-to-house search for the journalist, who now works in Germany, DW said Thursday.

A second relative was seriously wounded but others were able to escape, it said, without giving details of the incident.

DW director general Peter Limbourg condemned the killing, which he said showed the danger to media workers and their families in Afghanistan.

“The killing of a close relative of one of our editors by the Taliban yesterday is inconceivably tragic, and testifies to the acute danger in which all our employees and their families in Afghanistan find themselves,” he said.

“It is evident that the Taliban are already carrying out organized searches for journalists, both in Kabul and in the provinces. We are running out of time!”

READ ALSO: German states vow to take in thousands of refugees

The Taliban had raided the homes of at least three other DW journalists, the broadcaster said.

DW and other German media organisations have called on the German government to take swift action to help their Afghan staff.

After taking Kabul, the Taliban launched a public relations blitz promising media freedom and a pardon for all their opponents.

However, a confidential UN document seen by AFP says they are intensifying their search for people who worked with US and NATO forces.

Later on Friday, the German government said a German civilian was shot on his way to the airport. They said his life was not in danger.

Aid to support refugees in Middle East

Meanwhile, the German government has announced €100 million in emergency aid for Afghan refugees.

The money is to be used to support international aid organisations on the ground.

Tens of thousands of people are currently trying to flee Afghanistan to neighbouring countries.

With just five weeks until the federal election in Germany, politicians are debating the best way of dealing with the international crisis. 

CDU/CSU candidate for chancellor Armin Laschet spoke out in favour of holding talks with the Taliban in order to help people in danger in Afghanistan.

“The art of good foreign policy consists precisely in coming to solutions with these kinds of states, whose goals and image of humanity our society rightly rejects,” the CDU leader told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung.

“Refusing to engage in dialogue with the Taliban would not help the people who want to get out of Afghanistan.”

The German government has faced criticism from the opposition over not acting quickly enough to evacuate citizens and Afghan support staff. 

The situation has also brought back memories of the 2015 refugee crisis when Chancellor Angela Merkel embarked on an ‘open-door policy’ for migrants.

The decision changed the political landscape of Germany, resulting in the huge rise in support for the anti-immigration and far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD).

READ ALSO: Five years on: How well did Germany handle the refugee crisis

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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.