Berlin (dpa) – Western states are stepping up efforts to bring their own personnel and Afghan local personnel to safety from the rapidly advancing Taliban.
The US State Department has announced that the intended reinforcement of US troops in Afghanistan of about 3,000 soldiers will be largely in Kabul by Sunday. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said British embassy staff must leave Kabul within days. According to Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Germany also wants to reduce embassy staff to the “absolute minimum”. Personnel and local personnel are flown out with two aircraft.
The militant Islamist Taliban have now brought under their control more than half of the 34 provincial capitals. On Thursday and Friday, Herat and Kandahar, the country’s third and second largest cities, fell to Islamists. With Pul-i Alam in Logar province, the Taliban have also captured a provincial capital just about 70 kilometers south of the capital, Kabul.
US and UK withdraw staff
The US announced Thursday that it would reduce its embassy staff and send about 3,000 additional soldiers to the airport in Kabul. London also wants to send some 600 soldiers to ensure the repatriation of the British. A spokesman for the Federal Ministry of Defense does not rule out the possibility that Bundeswehr soldiers could also be used for a return operation. The Bundeswehr has troops ready “in case of emergency,” he said.
Defense Department spokesman John Kirby stressed that US troops could evacuate thousands of people from Kabul every day. Air transport capacity is “not a problem,” Kirby says. In his words, Kabul is not currently “threatened”. The Taliban tried to isolate the capital.
Britain also wants to withdraw most of the staff from the embassy in Kabul in the coming days. Prime Minister Johnson said this after a meeting of the National Security Cabinet (Cobra) about the situation in the Central Asian country in London. At the same time, a team from the Home Office is to be sent to organize the departure of Afghans working for the British armed forces. Ambassador Laurie Bristow and a small team remained in the country but would move to a “safer” location in Kabul, the British government said. According to media reports, there are still some 4,000 Britons in Afghanistan.
Seehofer: “Open to any procedure”
The Bundeswehr and German institutions also employ a large number of local staff in Afghanistan, who can now leave the country more easily. Like Foreign Minister Maas earlier, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) said identity verification and the issuance of visas could also take place in Germany if necessary. “We are open to any procedure. No mention of local personnel fails at the Federal Ministry of the Interior,” said Seehofer of the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”. Green leader Robert Habeck demanded in the newspaper that people from Afghanistan who have worked through companies, so not directly for the Bundeswehr or other German institutions, should be included.
US government sees lack of combat readiness
Meanwhile, the US government accused the Afghan leadership and security forces of a lack of combat readiness in view of the Taliban advance. It was “worrying” to see that political and military leaders lacked the “will” to oppose the advance of militant Islamists, US Defense Department spokesman Kirby told CNN. The US could not have foreseen the “lack of resistance” of the Afghan armed forces. The Afghan security forces are superior to the Taliban in equipment, training and troop strength and have their own air force.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on the Taliban to immediately stop their violent advance in Afghanistan. “Appropriating power through military force is a doomed practice,” Guterres said in New York. “It can only lead to a protracted civil war or the complete isolation of Afghanistan.” He hoped for an agreement negotiated with all parties to end the conflict. He is very concerned about the situation, Guterres said. “Afghanistan is spiraling out of control.”
Increasing pressure from refugees
Foreign Secretary Michael Roth expects the rapid advance of the Taliban will also increase refugee pressure on the EU and Germany. The SPD politician pointed out in the “Rheinische Post” that there are about 3.5 million displaced persons in the Hindu Kush. The pressure on Turkey, Iran and Pakistan will not only increase “hugely”. “I am sure that migratory pressure on the EU and Germany will also increase,” Roth said. The United Nations Agency for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (OCHA) reported that many people sought protection from threats in Kabul and other major cities. Many stay with friends or family, but a growing number are also staying outside in the capital.