Germany’s evacuation operation in Afghanistan ends

Germany has pulled out all its soldiers from Afghanistan with its last evacuation flight from Kabul, Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said Thursday.

Germany's evacuation operation in Afghanistan ends
The Bundeswehr assisting people in Tashkent after evacuating them from Kabul. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Bundeswehr | Marc Tessensohn

“All soldiers, members of the foreign ministry and federal police who have led this mission to a safe end for us on the ground have been flown out of Kabul,” said the minister, adding that the military evacuation mission has therefore now ended.

It came following deadly bomb attacks at and around Kabul airport. Kramp-Karrenbauer said no German soldiers were injured.

“In view of the worsening security situation at the airport, I am glad and relieved that our soldiers who carried out this dangerous mission have just left the Afghan airspace safely,” said Kramp-Karrenbauer.

Germany evacuated more than 5,300 people, including more than 3,600 Afghans.

In a tweet, the Bundeswehr said it was “not possible to extend the operation due to the security situation”.

The German mission ended five days before the August 31st deadline for evacuations and a US troop withdrawal.

France has said it will end its evacuation operations on Friday afternoon.


Meanwhile, Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday condemned the attacks. 

“We don’t know all the details yet but the terrorists targeted people waiting at the airport gates who were hoping to leave,” Merkel said.

“They wanted security and freedom and that is why it is an absolutely heinous attack in a very, very tense situation.”   

Earlier in the day, Merkel’s spokesman said she had cancelled her trip to Israel due to the Afghanistan situation.

“The chancellor’s trip to Israel planned for August 28-30 has been cancelled in coordination with the Israeli prime minister due to current developments in Afghanistan,” Steffen Seibert said in a statement.

“Both sides agreed that the chancellor’s visit should take place at a later date.”

Merkel, who will retire from politics after a general election next month, was to hold talks with Israel’s new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Isaac Herzog and receive an honorary doctorate from the Technion Israel Institute of Technology.

Throughout her 16 years in power, Merkel has described Israel’s national security as a crucial priority of German foreign policy due to the country’s historical responsibility for the Holocaust.

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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.