Sunday 15th August 2021
Escape from the Taliban in Kabul
International staff holed up at the airport
The Taliban are recapturing Afghanistan at impressive speed. The speed at which the NATO states are also surprised: they flee to Kabul International Airport in a hurry. Foreign Minister Maas announces quick help, but it will take some time before the first rescue planes land.
Several states, including Germany and the USA, hastily closed their embassies in the Afghan capital Kabul and moved their staff to the airport. From there, the diplomats, their relatives, security forces and other citizens of Western countries as well as members of aid organizations are to be flown out of the country in the next few hours. The aim of the German staff is unconfirmed, according to the information, the Uzbek capital Tashkent. From there, the passengers are to be brought to Germany by charter aircraft.
How long those affected will have to wait at the airport is unclear. According to Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, the first members of the German embassy will be brought to safety during the night. “Some of them will be flown out later in the day,” he said in Berlin that evening. During the night, Bundeswehr machines would also take off for Afghanistan, so that more embassy staff and employees could be brought to a neighboring country in the next few days. The embassy staff are in a militarily secured part of Kabul airport.
Accordingly, the Ministry of Defense said in the evening: “Tonight A400M transport aircraft will leave for Kabul. We are supporting the Foreign Office in the evacuation of those to be protected”, shared it on Twitter. Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told ntv that the machines would take off from the Wunstorf military airport near Hanover. From there the machines would fly out to a “third country” that they did not name. A “hub” will be set up there, from which there will then be an “airlift” to Germany.
According to information from “Spiegel” there are around 20 employees of the German embassy in Kabul. There are also development workers and around 80 other Germans who are still in the country. In addition, around 300 local Afghan workers who worked for Germany in Afghanistan, along with their families, are to be flown out.
Airport under attack?
The security situation at the airport, however, seems delicate: the US embassy instructed its compatriots in the late afternoon to get to safety: “The security situation in Kabul is changing rapidly, including at the airport. There are reports that the airport has come under fire so we are instructing US citizens to get to safety. “
According to a CNN reporter who is also in Kabul, the access road to the airport is “completely blocked”. The airport can only be reached by air. US Army helicopters are in constant use to pick up and fly personnel from the roof of the embassy. The US ambassador is also said to have already left the building: In several media reports it is said that the US flag was brought down and brought with him to the airport.
Airport necessary for escape
The safe operation of the airport is a prerequisite for the international diplomatic personnel to be flown out as quickly as possible. In order to be able to carry out the operations as planned, NATO has announced security measures. The military alliance will help to keep Kabul airport open and to facilitate and coordinate evacuations, said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
France, among others, wants to reopen its embassy at the airport in Kabul with an emergency service. Everything will be done to be able to continue issuing visas to Afghan local staff and other vulnerable groups, said the French Foreign Ministry. The personnel should be brought to the United Arab Emirates within a few hours.
In addition to Germany, the USA and France, the Netherlands have also moved their embassy near the international airport. Employees of the Italian embassy are said to be flown to Rome in a military plane that evening. Russia, on the other hand, does not want to vacate its embassy for the time being, as the Afghanistan representative of the Foreign Ministry, Samir Kabulov, told the Interfax agency.