Monday 23 August 2021
Rescue flights also after August?
Maas presents five-point plan on Afghanistan
The US armed forces are still securing Kabul airport. Even after their planned withdrawal, people should still be able to be flown out – at least that’s what the federal government is aiming for. To do this, one will also have to speak to the Taliban, says the Federal Foreign Minister.
Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has presented a five-point plan for further action in the Afghanistan crisis. Maas said, first of all, there are talks with Turkey and the USA, but also with the Taliban, as to whether Kabul airport can continue to be operated civilly after August 31 to fly people out – even after German and other foreign troops have withdrawn.
Second, talk to Afghanistan’s neighbors so that they can take in refugees who leave the country by land. 100 million euros have been made available for this. In addition, German embassies in neighboring countries should quickly and easily issue visas for entry into Germany. Fourth, the staff in the diplomatic missions will be increased there in order to enable a smooth process. Fifth, the program for Afghans at particular risk will be increased by a further ten million euros.
“The situation around the airport has become chaotic in the past few hours,” said Maas. “The situation is still dangerous. For this reason, we do not recommend going to the airport on your own,” he said. There is no guarantee that people will then be able to enter the inner ring of the airport. This makes evacuations more difficult, but they want to continue as long as possible. At the same time, precautions are taken to ensure that people can also be helped after the evacuations have ended.
Berlin had previously spoken out in favor of extending the US mission to rescue tens of thousands of people from the Afghan capital Kabul beyond August 31. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby did not want to rule out that the deadline could be extended beyond the date. But he emphasized: “Our focus is on making it by the end of the month.” He doesn’t want to “speculate” about an extended deadline.
Nato does not want to give a specific date for an end to the evacuation flights from Afghanistan either. “The situation at the airport in Kabul remains extremely challenging and unpredictable,” said an alliance spokesman. Work is being done with allied troops to continue the evacuations. Dozens of flights are currently leaving Kabul every day. According to the spokesman, there will be further discussions on the subject at the G7 special summit on the situation in Afghanistan organized by video conference this Tuesday.
The radical Islamic Taliban had previously increased pressure on the US to end its evacuation flights as planned at the end of August. Otherwise a spokesman for the militia threatened with “consequences”. The EU and Great Britain consider a rescue of all those in need of protection from Afghanistan by the end of August to be unrealistic in view of the chaotic conditions at the airport. However, they also admit that European forces cannot hold the airport without US support.
10,000 people flown out in 24 hours
Meanwhile, the evacuation missions continue. The USA flew more than 10,000 people from Kabul within 24 hours for the first time. The White House said 28 US military planes took around 10,400 people out of the country between early Sunday morning and early Monday morning. In the same period, 61 machines from international partners also evacuated around 5,900 people. Since the start of the evacuation mission in mid-August, the United States has either flown around 37,000 people out of Afghanistan itself or made it possible for them to leave.
During the evacuation of the German armed forces, another plane with 198 people in need of protection landed on board from Kabul in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The Bundeswehr announced. Almost at the same time, an A400M military transporter took off from Tashkent in the direction of Kabul, which, in addition to food, also loaded clothing for the people at the airport.
The Defense Ministry announced that the Bundeswehr has flown almost 3,000 people from Kabul since the start of their evacuation campaign. According to the Foreign Office, more than 1,800 Afghans were among them. “We are evacuating as many as possible from Afghanistan as long as possible,” said a tweet. It is unclear how many of the evacuated Afghans were local personnel, for example from the Bundeswehr. Some of them could also have been flown out on planes from other countries.
Emergency shelters are being prepared
Around 4,000 people who have flown out of Afghanistan could be temporarily accommodated at US bases in Bavaria and Rhineland-Palatinate. As a spokesman for the US Army Europe confirmed, appropriate preparations are being made at the Grafenwöhr and Kaiserslautern locations. According to this, people who have been brought to safety should stay there until they can be brought to their final destination. In addition to accommodation and food, there will also be medical care, it said.
In Kaiserslautern, the people are said to be housed in the “Rhein Ordnance Barracks” facility, in Grafenwoehr on the local military training area of the US armed forces. The reason for the preparations is that the USA is currently using its huge military base in Ramstein, Palatinate, as a hub for the evacuation of refugees from Afghanistan. The accommodation options there are limited and could soon be exhausted.