Saturday, December 4th 2021
Evacuation mission from Kabul
General: “I cried too”
The evacuation operation from Afghanistan in the summer is not only difficult to bear for the local people. Nor does it leave the soldiers of the Bundeswehr without a trace. “We saw things that were beyond imagination,” recalls General Arlt.
The dramatic evacuation operation in Afghanistan left its mark on the commander of the German forces at the Kabul airlift, Jens Arlt. The difficult mission in August under his command sharpened his image of the soldier’s profession, Arlt told the “Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung”. “It was the toughest form I have ever experienced – from the time intensity, the impressions to the things that I decided or had to do on the spot,” said the brigadier general of the paratroopers.
Arlt recalled the devastating circumstances and suffering that the German soldiers experienced at Kabul airport. In front of the gates, a large “plug” of people pushed inside in order to leave the country before the Taliban. “We saw things that are beyond the norm of imagination,” said Arlt. “Women and children were pushed away, children were brought in out of frustration and hopelessness – sometimes even thrown. Attempts were also made to gain access through children. And later these were simply thrown away – not put away.”
The stress and strain were high for the soldiers deployed. Military chaplains were on the spot on the base in Uzbekistan. At first it was ridiculed, but then it was accepted “immensely well”, Arlt told the newspaper. “I have spoken a lot with my men and women and kept saying: ‘Take care of each other, talk to each other and don’t talk nicely. Do not give yourself any illusions.’ When they see how women and children were treated, for example, they could cry calmly and should remain human. I cried too. “
Under Arlt’s command, the almost 500 soldiers of the German evacuation association had brought more than 5300 people from 45 countries to safety. Arlt had received the Federal Cross of Merit for his work.