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Taliban Hindering Evacuation of Afghans, Says German Minister

Thousands of panicked people fled to the airport in a bid to get on departing Western flights, after the Taliban seized control of the country. (File photo/AP)

Thousands of panicked people fled to the airport in a bid to get on departing Western flights, after the Taliban seized control of the country. (File photo/AP)

Germany is in dialogue with the United States on the issue, in the hopes of pressing US representatives who are in discussion with the Taliban in Doha of obtaining safe passage for Afghans to the airport.

Taliban checkpoints around Kabul airport are blocking Afghans from accessing the terminal, making it difficult for the West to evacuate local staff who worked for Western forces, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Tuesday.

“The Taliban has set up checkpoints everywhere in the city and have the entire area and the airport surroundings in their hands," said Maas at a press conference.

The only people allowed through into the airport are “foreign citizens, but no local workers and no Afghan citizens" are given access, he said.

Germany is in dialogue with the United States on the issue, in the hopes of pressing US representatives who are in discussion with the Taliban in Doha of obtaining safe passage for Afghans to the airport.

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Maas said a German diplomat will also be dispatched to Doha to join talks.

Thousands of panicked people fled to the airport in a bid to get on departing Western flights, after the Taliban seized control of the country.

According to a government report seen by AFP on Tuesday, the situation has calmed down since the Taliban set up security posts around the airport.

This is making it easier for international forces to evacuate their nationals but “the closure of the airport to Afghan nationals is making it more difficult to evacuate former Afghan local staff", the document said.

Speaking in Berlin on Tuesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel said the big question over the next few days would be “above all, how many can reach the airport in Kabul".

Berlin estimates that 2,500 local employees who worked with German troops or at the embassy, as well as their family members, need to be evacuated from the country.

Another 2,000 Afghans, such as human rights activists or employees of non-governmental organisations, also need to be brought out of the country. The number swells to 10,000 if their family members are included.

Officials admitted on Tuesday that a German military plane left Kabul carrying just seven evacuees while hundreds waited on the ground because allies responsible for security at the airport could not secure their access to the aircraft.

However, a second plane left Kabul on Tuesday afternoon with more than 125 people on board, including Germans, Afghans and other nationals, Maas said.

Another 180 people are currently at the airport awaiting evacuation by the German military, the minister added.

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first published:August 18, 2021, 00:01 IST