The German government has suspended economic aid to Afghanistan, Economic Development Minister Gerd Mueller told German media on Tuesday. “The state’s development aid has been suspended,” Mueller told the Rheinische Post newspaper.
Olaf Deutschbein, the minister’s spokesperson, cited Mueller as saying on Twitter that the Economic Development Ministry’s agency for international cooperation GIZ had pulled all its staffers from Afghanistan.
“The remaining German and EU members of GIZ were able to safely leave the country. We are working intensely to get support staff of the German development cooperation [agencies] and our partner aid organizations out of Afghanistan, if they want it,” Mueller said.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Tuesday that Germany was building an air bridge to airlift German nationals and people in need of rescue from Kabul after it fell to the Taliban militant group.
Kabul Airport Stable
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas described the situation at Kabul’s international airport as stable following a failed rescue mission the previous night.
A Foreign Office spokesperson said on Tuesday that a German military jet whisked only seven people away from Kabul overnight due to a shooting at the civilian side of the airport. The Bild daily said 145 Germans were expected to be airlifted but the majority did not make it to the jet.
“The situation at Kabul airport has stabilized again. Bundeswehr has secured access. We expect further evacuation flights later today. The embassy has contacted the first group of people who are to be evacuated,” Maas tweeted.
He added that the German authorities were working to create a “stable air bridge in order to safely evacuate German nationals, local support staff and other protected people to Germany.”
The Bild daily cited a German security source as saying that the situation in Kabul was “unclear.” Reports said hundreds of people in need of rescue were waiting at the terminal, and German soldiers were calling out NATO citizens to come up and present valid documents.
“Preparations are being made to bring protected people to safety as soon as the next aircraft arrive,” another source told the newspaper.
The Foreign Office spokesperson said further that NATO allies barred access of prospective German evacuees from the civilian side of the airport to the rescue jet. The US military said on Monday it had taken over security controls at the airport.
A large military plane sent by Germany to evacuate people in Afghanistan departed from Kabul’s airport with only seven people on board, German media reported on Tuesday.
The A-400M transport aircraft, which can carry up to 200 people, landed in the military portion of the airport on Monday night but only those on the German Embassy’s list were allowed to board the flight, according to the daily Bild.
As only seven people from the official list managed to arrive at the airport by that time, the plane took off almost empty within a couple of hours.
The German Foreign Ministry confirmed that only seven people were on board at their first evacuation flight, but claimed that due to the chaos in the airport’s civilian side, it was not possible to take in more people.
The incident sparked a storm of social media criticism, with many experts, journalists, and politicians criticizing German authorities for being too slow and inefficient to organize the evacuations, while thousands of Afghans desperately seek to flee the country after the Taliban took over the capital on Sunday.
Foreign policy expert Daniela Schwarzer noted that an American C-17 military cargo plane had taken in more than 600 Afghans on Sunday, rescuing them from the insurgents. She said on Twitter: “640 on a single US plane. And Germany evacuates 7 with an A400M. Seven.”
Hasnain Kazim, a prominent journalist and writer, castigated German authorities and said bureaucratic red tape was putting the lives of many Afghans in danger.
“German bureaucracy kills,” he tweeted.
Tobias Lindner, a senior lawmaker from the opposition Green party, said authorities should use full seating capacity in future evacuation flights to save as many Afghans as possible from the Taliban.
“The A-400M aircraft landed in Kabul at great risk. It’s certainly not acceptable to leave by only taking in 7 people,” he said on Twitter.
“In such flights, not a single seat can be left empty – especially at a time when nobody knows for how long such evacuation flights can continue,” he added.
After the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, Germany sent three military planes to evacuate the remaining diplomatic personnel and local Afghan staff, but only one could land in Kabul on Monday night due to the chaos at the airport. The other planes were diverted to the neighboring countries.
In the past couple of weeks, Berlin evacuated nearly 2,000 local staff from Afghanistan, with nearly 10,000 more trying to flee the country, including Afghans who worked for German development agencies, non-governmental organizations, and media outlets, as well as human rights activists and lawyers.
With Inputs from Anadolu Agency