Kabul/Washington (dpa) – There is still chaos around the airport in the Afghan capital Kabul. Bundeswehr General Jens Arlt spoke of “dramatic scenes” on Thursday.
Local helpers from German organizations reported that the streets were overcrowded and sometimes impassable. American soldiers did not allow them at the entrances, two local employees of the German news agency said. CNN journalist Clarissa Ward, one of the few foreign journalists still on the scene, spoke of a “tornado of madness”. According to her, people threw babies over the fence to keep them safe. The Taliban are on their way with whips and weapons to stop the people.
“Everything is very, very turbulent,” Arlt, who leads the German evacuation operation on the ground, said in an online Defense Ministry press conference, which he attended by telephone. “You might hear a few shots in the background. You see the desperate eyes of Afghans and citizens of different countries just trying to get into the inner area of Kabul International Airport, what we see is quite dramatic.” Arlt said that “several representatives” on the German side were trying to find “our people” Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) described the evacuation as a “very complicated operation”.
Biden: Chaos was inevitable
US President Joe Biden emphasized that the chaos during the US troop withdrawal was inevitable – because of the collapse of the Afghan government, the military and the swift takeover by the Taliban. He assured ABC television that the American soldiers could remain at the airport if necessary after the scheduled departure date of August 31. “If there are still American citizens, we’ll stay until we get them all gone.”
When asked if the US government made mistakes or if the situation could have been handled better, Biden replied: “No. I don’t think we’d make it in a way (…) to get out without chaos. I don’t know how to do that.”
In Afghanistan itself, despite the triumphant march of the Taliban, people apparently demonstrated with the national flag. Videos circulated on social media of an estimated 100 people walking down a street in the capital, Kabul, holding up the red, black and green flag. They shouted “Long live Afghanistan” and “Our flag, our pride”. Initially, the recordings could not be reliably verified. Since the Taliban came to power, the national flag has increasingly become a symbol of protest against the Islamists, who have their own flag.
Fear of a return of the reign of terror
After their conquest, the Taliban took power in the country on Sunday. Many Afghans fear a return to the reign of terror of the Islamists of the 1990s, in which, for example, women were excluded from public life and the ideas of the Islamists were enforced with barbaric punishments. Many people therefore want to leave the country. Germany, the US and other countries are currently flying out their own nationals and Afghan aid workers.
But Biden admitted to having problems evacuating Afghans. The Taliban would “cooperate” and allow American citizens and embassy employees to leave the country. However, in view of the evacuation of the former Afghan employees of the US authorities and armed forces, there are “slightly more difficulties” in getting them out. Biden admitted it was still chaotic around the airport, “but no one is getting killed right now.”
Retained by American soldiers
A former foreign agency helper told the DPA on Thursday: “The US soldiers only let their people through.” Another local officer reported trying to get to the airport from 8pm to 2am. An American soldier said that someone had to come and see if he was really a local German worker. Shots were fired in the air time after time. Tear gas was also used. The US Department of Defense confirmed on Wednesday that soldiers had also fired into the air to keep the crowds outside the airport in check.
There are several entrances at Kabul Airport. Many people are standing at the entrance to the civilian part, which is located on the south side of the airport. Commercial flights are processed from there, but are currently being discontinued. On the north side there is an entrance to the military area. Another entrance is located about a kilometer east of the entrance to the civilian section. Around these entrances – as well as along the blast-proof walls that surround the site – thousands of people wait or try to get to the site in some way.
G7 video conference planned
There is great concern internationally. EU foreign affairs representative Josep Borrell called it a “catastrophe for the values and credibility of the West”. They failed to guide the country towards a modern state. According to the United Nations, there is a shortage of at least 700 million euros in donations to support the people of Afghanistan. According to a newspaper report, Italy wants to convene a special summit of the main industrialized and emerging countries (G20). A video conference of the heads of state and government of the G7 is also discussed for next week.
Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD), during whose term the Bundestag voted in favor of the Bundeswehr mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2001, spoke of a “disaster for the US, for NATO, but also for German politics”. Germany is obliged to rescue the local staff: “There has been outright negligence here in recent weeks,” Schröder wrote in a guest post for the news portal t-online. However, the “decisive responsibility” for the failure lies “not in Berlin, but in Washington”.