Germany to cut staff at its Kabul embassy to 'minimum'

Published : August 14, 2021 16:43 IST

The German government said it is pushing to fly home its citizens and embassy staff in Kabul, while worries grow they could be running out of time. Photo: Can Merey/dpa

Senior German politicians have raised the alarm about another refugee crisis if the West does not fund regional camps. The German journalists’ association has also appealed for the rescue of Afghan reporters.

Germany will reduce the number of staff at its Kabul embassy to the "absolute minimum," Foreign Minister Heiko Mass said Friday as Taliban forces set their sights on the Afghan capital.

The announcement came as more German lawmakers appeal for quick action to get staff out of Afghanistan. Senior Christian Democratic Union (CDU) lawmaker Norbert Röttgen urged the German authorities to "not abandon a single local employee" in danger of "torture and death." It also comes as the German Federation of Journalists asked for Afghan journalists to be granted residence.

What did Maas say?

After the Taliban took the second and third largest cities in Afghanistan, Germany is looking to safeguard its citizens and embassy staff on the ground in the war-torn country's capital city. "We will reduce personnel of the German embassy in Kabul in the coming days to the operative absolute minimum," Maas told journalists.

"We will send a crisis support team to Kabul to help us boost security precautions," the foreign minister added. With the Taliban looking to set their sights on Afghan capital soon, Maas said he had decided to bring forward "charter flights planned for this month" to evacuate Germans and some Afghan workers out of Kabul.

Maas said local embassy staff would be given a visa on arrival in Germany to "speed up the departure process." The embassy will continue to function for the moment.

He told all German citizens who were not part of the army or "designated personnel" to "leave the country now." An estimated 100 German citizens — not including those sent by the German government — are still in Afghanistan.

How have other German politicians reacted?

Norbert Röttgen, the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament, tweeted his support for those who had helped the country in the last 20 years. "The Taliban keep advancing every day," Röttgen said on his personal Twitter account. "We must not abandon a single staff member who has supported us in Afghanistan!"

"These people are counting on us because torture and death await them in Afghanistan. Red tape can be deadly now," he warned. In an interview with German news magazine Der Spiegel, Röttgen said "millions" of refugees could now be forced to leave Afghanistan. Politicians believe that many of them could try to find their way to Europe.

Röttgen's concerns were shared by fellow CDU lawmaker Thorsten Frei, who spoke of supporting a localized solution, so as to avoid a similar situation as with Syria in 2014. "Refugee camps in the region were dramatically underfunded, which is why hundreds of thousands made their way to Europe," Frei said.

"Should the Taliban gain control of the country, we must do everything we can so neighboring countries and the international aid organizations are enabled to take care of the Afghan refugees," Frei told Der Spiegel.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who suspended deportation flights to Afghanistan on Wednesday, said a large "refugee flow" could cause the country "great grief," in the Der Spiegel story.

What will happen with Afghan journalists?

The German Federation of Journalists (DJV) said on Friday that it would like to see the government give Afghan reporters visas. "Germany must not stand idly by while our colleagues are persecuted or even murdered," said DJV Federal Chairman Frank Überall.

"Without informants and translators on site, the German media would not have had a line to write or a minute to broadcast about Afghanistan in recent years, " he said.

More than 1,200 reporters have already lost their jobs in the country with many of them killed in targeted executions, the International Federation of Journalists has reported. "The [German] publishers and broadcasters have to live up to their responsibility in the current emergency situation," Überall said.

jc/rs (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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