The mistakes that led to the 2015 refugee crisis should not be repeated while handling the people fleeing the Taliban from Afghanistan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Berlin on Monday.
In her briefing, the chancellor stressed the need for the international community to provide support to countries neighboring Afghanistan, especially Pakistan, so that if people flee the Afghan Taliban from Afghanistan, they can provide for those in need. She indicated that an extraordinary EU summit could be convened, one of the main topics of which could be support for countries in the region hosting Afghan refugees.
“These people must be given shelter and the mistake of the international community not providing enough money to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Food Aid Organization (WFP) must not be made again,” she said.
Merkel has faced criticism for her decision to allow over a million migrants to enter Germany in 2015, widely seen as to having contributed to a migrant crisis that continues to affect Europe to this day. Germany has experienced significant hurdles with integration, including increased terrorism, migrant crime, and sexual assault.
“In the case of Afghanistan, we need to move faster and support the neighboring countries faster,” the German chancellor said. She said she agrees with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas’ statement that the situation in Afghanistan had been misjudged. The entire international community expected that international development work in the Asian country could continue even after the withdrawal of foreign soldiers.
Thus, even at the end of July, it seemed that only those Afghan personnel aiding the German army (Bundeswehr) and their family members, which amounts to 2,500 people should be evacuated from the country. Of those, 1,900 of those are already in Germany, and probably hundreds are in some safe third country.
However, in a situation changed by the Taliban offensive at a “breathtaking” speed, Afghan workers from German aid organizations and other NGOs must also be evacuated, which would mean thousands more. That is why the Bundeswehr launched an air rescue operation, Merkel explained.
She confirmed the press report that a Luftwaffe transport aircraft had already arrived in the Kabul area but had not received a landing permit, adding that “we hope the first A400 M will be able to land soon.”
Merkel pointed out, however, that “control is not in our hands”, the outcome of the action depends on developments in Kabul. She said that with the radical Islamist Taliban coming to power a “bitter, dramatic and terrible” situation has developed, especially for those living in Afghanistan. At the same time, the development is bitter for Germany and all the allies that have been operating in Afghanistan for almost 20 years.
She explained that the only result of the efforts of the international efforts of the last almost two decades is that Afghanistan “is not, at least for the time being, the backbone of Islamist terror”.
Germany had the second largest number of military personnel in Afghanistan after the United States. At one point, there were more than 5,000 German soldiers in the Asian country. Germany spent €12.5 billion on military operations and a further €435 million a year on development and aid programs in Afghanistan.
Title image: German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks about current developments in Afghanistan at a press conference in the Chancellery in Berlin, Monday Aug. 16, 2021. Merkel has called the latest developments in Afghanistan “bitter, dramatic and awful.” (Odd Andersen/Pool via AP)