We can't abandon Afghans after August 31, says Angela Merkel

Berlin explores ways to resume commercial flights from Kabul after Nato airlift ends

German Chancellor Angela Merkel faces parliament in an emergency debate on Afghanistan. AP
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Efforts to rescue vulnerable Afghans from Kabul should continue even after the Nato airlift ends, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said.

Time is running out for the military operation after US President Joe Biden resisted calls to extend its August 31 deadline. Rescue flights will have to be wound down before then.

Mrs Merkel said Berlin was exploring ways to resume commercial flights from the airport, which were stopped after the Taliban takeover, so Nato’s Afghan contractors could escape the country.

She said Germany would not “shy away from discussions with the Taliban” to allow for evacuations and push the West’s demands for Afghanistan.

“The end of the airlift in a few days - and President Biden did not set a new date for this at yesterday's G7 talks... cannot be the end of the efforts to protect our Afghan personnel and help those Afghans who were thrown into greater need by the advance of the Taliban,” she said.

“Therefore, intensive work is taking place at all levels on how we can keep finding ways to protect those who helped us, including through the civilian operation of Kabul airport.”

Germany’s 20-year mission in Afghanistan ended in June, but on August 18 it sent sent up to 600 troops back to the country to help the rescue mission from Kabul.

More than 4,500 people have been flown out by the German military, including Afghan personnel and nationals of other Nato countries.

But there is no prospect of America’s Nato allies staying on after the US withdrawal, meaning only days remain for the evacuation.

Ms Merkel, who is not seeking another term in a general election next month, said talks with the Taliban were needed to preserve the gains of the past 20 years in Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, G7 leaders said the legitimacy of a Taliban government would depend on whether it respects women’s rights and prevents terrorists from operating within the country.

Germany faces criticism that it was too slow to rescue Afghan contractors before the fall of the US-backed government.

Annalena Baerbock, the leader of the opposition Greens, told Parliament Kabul was likely to remain in chaos after August 31.

“It shows what a foreign policy disaster your government has created, not only for the German army but the people in Afghanistan who relied on our help,” she told Ms Merkel.

The chancellor defended her government’s actions by saying it had planned to continue Germany’s development work in Afghanistan after the military withdrawal.

Like Mr Biden, she acknowledged that Nato had been caught out by the speed of the Taliban advance. But she criticised Afghan security forces for their lack of resistance to the militants.

“What we underestimated was how comprehensively, and how breathtakingly quickly, the Afghan security forces would give up their resistance against the Taliban, or in some cases not even take up resistance at all,” she said.

Updated: August 26, 2021, 4:41 AM