“We must not and will not forget Afghanistan”

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Government statement by the Federal Chancellor “We must not and will not forget Afghanistan”

Events had been appalling and distressing – a tragedy for many Afghans, said the Federal Chancellor in her government statement to the Bundestag on the situation in Afghanistan. Now it was a matter of protecting those at risk, not just through the airlift operation but afterwards, too. Merkel explained the current priorities.

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Federal Chancellor Merkel at the lectern on the floor of the Bundestag.

Federal Chancellor Merkel outlined current priorities with regard to Afghanistan in her government statement in the Bundestag.

Photo: Federal Government / Denzel

Federal Chancellor Merkel issued a government statement to the Bundestag on the current situation in Afghanistan. Since the withdrawal of international troops, the Taliban had taken control of the whole country in a very short time, she said, causing large numbers of people to suffer enormous desperation and personal tragedy.

International coalition underestimated developments

In this situation, Merkel said, her thoughts were with the 59 German soldiers who had lost their lives in the course of the Afghanistan mission, as well as the soldiers and civil servants who had suffered permanent injury.

The “breathtaking speed” at which the Afghan security forces had given up their resistance to the Taliban had been underestimated, she said, a development that had been further accelerated by the flight of the Afghan government. “All of us in the entire international coalition clearly underestimated the speed of these developments. That applies to Germany, too,” stressed the Federal Chancellor.

Germany did not pursue its own separate policy

She said that the developments at Kabul airport in the last few days had been appalling and distressing – for the Afghans who had done so much to achieve freedom and security in their country as well as for the allies who had worked to ensure Afghanistan’s secure development for 20 years.

Merkel stressed that Germany had not pursued its own separate policy in Afghanistan: “We have acted together with our allies since 2001 and are doing so now in the evacuation operations”. An international airlift was jointly established to evacuate foreign nationals, local Afghan staff and members of Afghan civil society requiring special protection. Soldiers of the Federal Armed Forces were among the first to arrive in Kabul to set up the airlift.

End of the airlift is not the end of aid

Merkel said that the Federal Armed Forces had so far flown more than 4,600 people from 45 nations out of Afghanistan, adding that this was an international operation being run from Tashkent and Kabul. “We continue to make every effort to help Afghans leave the country, in particular those who have stood by Germany as local staff of the Federal Armed Forces, the police and aid organisations – people who have worked for a safe, free country with prospects for the future,” Merkel said. 

The end of the airlift was not to mark the end of aid to Afghans, she added. “This is why we are currently working intensively at all levels on how to find ways to go on protecting those who have helped us, not least by means of civilian operation of the airport in Kabul,” Merkel said.

Thanks to soldiers, police officers and Embassy staff

The Federal Chancellor thanked the soldiers and federal police officers for their efforts on the ground in Kabul and Tashkent, as well as the staff of the German Embassy in Kabul and the Federal Government’s crisis task force “who work around the clock”. Thanks also go to the Uzbek government for making the airport in Tashkent available for the airlift.

The Federal Government would continue to “make every effort to help those people leave the country who have assisted us as local staff,” assured Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel. She reiterated that since 2013, Germany had continuously provided safe passage to Germany for local staff at risk as well as their family members. By August of this year, more than 1,000 local staff had come to Germany – more than 4,800 people in total including family members. Following the allies’ decision to withdraw, 2,500 local staff and their family members had received visas based on an accelerated procedure, she said. Given the deterioration of the situation, a visa was now no longer necessary, she added.

Merkel explains dilemma

“If local staff had been transported out of the country at the same time as the withdrawal of the Federal Armed Forces, this might have given the impression that the people in Afghanistan were being left to their fate,” the Federal Chancellor explained. Development assistance was to continue after the withdrawal so as to support the people even in difficult conditions, said Merkel. “There are very good reasons for continuing to stand by the people of Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the troops, at least in the context of development assistance”.

Germany provides humanitarian aid

Another key priority was to provide humanitarian aid to the people in Afghanistan, said Merkel. Germany was supporting the international organisations here, she added. Merkel thanked the United Nations and international organisations for their ongoing work in Afghanistan. The Federal Government was providing 100 million euros in emergency aid and another 500 million euros in humanitarian aid, she said, both in Afghanistan and in order to help neighbouring countries to take in refugees.

There have been a lot of positive achievements, too

Merkel recalled that there had been a lot of positive achievements over the past 20 years, too. There had been no terrorist attacks originating in Afghanistan since 2001, she said. Merkel recalled that the attacks of 11 September 2001 on the World Trade Center in New York had been planned from Afghanistan.

Efforts had not been in vain for the people in Afghanistan either, she said, noting that child mortality had halved since 2001. Almost 70 percent of Afghans now had access to drinking water and over 90 percent had access to electricity, she said.

The aim now was to preserve as much of this as possible, she added. “It will be hard, but we have to try,” said Merkel. Nonetheless, it was now imperative to discontinue development assistance for Afghanistan for the time being.

An analysis is crucial – with partners in the EU and NATO, too

No conclusive answers could be given today on the question of why it had not been possible to achieve long-term stability in Afghanistan, said Merkel. However, an analysis was crucial in view of current and future missions by the Federal Armed Forces abroad: such an assessment was to be conducted along with partners in NATO and the EU, too, said the Federal Chancellor.

In conclusion, she emphasised a fundamental point: “Even though things may look different in this bitter hour, I remain firmly convinced that no violence or ideology can permanently put an end to people’s urge for freedom, justice and peace”.