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As Taliban Overrun Afghanistan, US Frustration Mounts, Germany May End Aid: How the World is Reacting

Head of the Taliban delegation Abdul Salam Hanafi (R), walks down a hotel lobby during the talks in Qatar's capital Doha on August 12, 2021. (AFP)

Head of the Taliban delegation Abdul Salam Hanafi (R), walks down a hotel lobby during the talks in Qatar's capital Doha on August 12, 2021. (AFP)

The conflict in Afghanistan has escalated dramatically since May, when US-led forces began the final stage of a troop withdrawal.

The Taliban have overrun 10 provincial capitals in a week in a lightning offensive, the latest the strategic Afghan city of Ghazni, just 150 kilometres (95 miles) from Kabul. The government has now effectively lost most of northern and western Afghanistan and is left holding a scattered collection of contested cities also dangerously at risk of falling to the Taliban.

The conflict has escalated dramatically since May, when US-led forces began the final stage of a troop withdrawal due to end later this month following a 20-year occupation. US President Joe Biden ordered the American military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan before September 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the US by Afghanistan-based Taliban-backed Al-Qaeda.

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Here’s how the world is reacting to the developments in Afghanistan:


Germany to end Afghanistan aid if Taliban take power

Germany on Thursday said that it would stop sending financial support to Afghanistan if the Taliban succeeded in seizing power in the country. Germany sends Afghanistan 430 million euros ($504 million) in aid a year, making it one of the biggest donors to the strife-hit nation.

The Taliban is aware of the fact that Afghanistan cannot survive without international aid, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told German broadcaster ZDF. “We will not send another cent to this country if the Taliban take complete control, introduce Sharia law and turn it into a caliphate," Maas said.

German soldiers were deployed as part of a NATO force in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years until June. Speaking to radio station Deutschlandfunk, German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer confirmed that Afghans who had worked with German forces locally would be brought to Germany to protect them from Taliban retaliation. However, he added that local officials will only allow Afghan citizens to leave the country if they have a passport, which many do not.

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France Suspends Expulsions of Migrants to Afghanistan

France last month suspended expelling Afghan migrants whose asylum applications had been rejected, due to the deteriorating security situation in the country as the Taliban presses an offensive, the government said Thursday. “We are watching the situation closely alongside our European partners," the French interior ministry said.

The French interior ministry told AFP in a statement that the policy had been in place since early July, after similar announcements of the suspension of such expulsions by Germany and the Netherlands.

Afghans in 2020 had accounted for the most asylum requests in France, with 8,886 applications.

US frustration mounts over Afghan failure to halt Taliban

The failure of Afghan security forces to blunt the advance of the Taliban has left US officials deeply frustrated after spending billions to train and equip the country’s military for two decades. President Joe Biden and other officials have repeatedly called for Afghan leaders to unite and fashion a clear strategy amid mounting worries that the insurgents could besiege Kabul within months. The Pentagon and the State Department closely echoed Biden’s words, expressing concerns over the Taliban’s gains in the absence of US and NATO troops for the first time since the 2001 invasion.

Privately US officials express surprise at the speed of the Taliban’s advance. The United States has conducted bombing runs over the past two weeks to aid Afghan forces, but the Taliban have easily swept through several key cities.

US officials stress the results could be different if President Ashraf Ghani could unite his government and acted decisively. Carter Malkasian, a former Pentagon official and author of “The American War in Afghanistan" said that the most capable military commanders, and many tribal and ethnic leaders, are staying in Kabul for political reasons when they need to be out on the front lines. “They need some encouragement from the government," Malkasian said.

The US also believes Ghani needs to work with regional strongmen and their tribal-based militias.

Turkey’s Erdogan says could meet Taliban leader

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday said he could meet with the leader of the insurgent Taliban group in an attempt to help secure peace in Afghanistan. Turkey currently has troops in Afghanistan as part of a NATO force and has offered to secure the strategic Kabul airport after US forces leave by the end of August.

Discussions continue between Turkish and American officials, and Turkey says it would secure the airport if diplomatic, financial and logistical conditions were met.

Erdogan’s more pressing domestic concern is the Turkish public’s fear of a wave of people fleeing Afghanistan as the insurgent group gains greater control over the country.

Nordic countries to offer asylum for Afghan staff

Roughly 45 Afghans employed by Denmark in the conflict-hit country will be offered temporary asylum as international troops withdraw, with other Nordic countries set to follow suit.

Afghans who worked for the Danish armed forces or embassy will be offered evacuation to Denmark and a two-year residence permit, the Danish foreign ministry has said.

Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said the government was exploring ways of evacuating “at least dozens" of Afghans who have worked for the Nordic nation, echoing a similar promise from neighbouring Sweden.

Last month the first group of Afghans employed by the United States were evacuated, with Germany and the UK also relocating their local staff. The Taliban is thought to have killed hundreds of Afghans who have worked for overseas forces, and their families.

Germany, Netherlands halt migrant expulsions to Afghanistan

Germany and the Netherlands said Wednesday they have stopped forced repatriations of Afghan migrants because of deteriorating security in Afghanistan, as the Taliban pressed on with its rapid advance in the country’s north. It was a sharp change from their previous position.

Officials had said as late as Tuesday that both governments had joined their counterparts in Austria, Belgium, Denmark and Greece to write to the EU’s executive arm saying they should be allowed to press on with expulsions of Afghan migrants if their asylum bids fail.

Neighbouring Austria, however, said it would press on with expulsions to Afghanistan.

Afghanistan urged the EU in July to cease forced deportations of Afghan migrants for three months as security forces battle the Taliban offensive ahead of the full US military pullout from Afghanistan on August 31.

(With AFP inputs)

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first published:August 12, 2021, 18:09 IST