Kabul / Washington (dpa) – US troops withdrew from Afghanistan after nearly 20 years – now all eyes are on the new reign of militant Islamist Taliban.
Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) said on Tuesday during a visit to Islamabad, neighboring Pakistan. In the face of the humanitarian crisis with several million people in need in the country, the United Nations Emergency Relief Office (OCHA) wishes to continue its work relentlessly.
The Taliban, who ruled the Central Asian country from 1996 to 2001, congratulated the Afghans on the US withdrawal and said: “This victory belongs to all of us.” On Tuesday, the first day after the withdrawal, the situation in the capital Kabul initially seemed calm. But many in the country fear that the group could rule again through repression and with draconian punishments. The Islamists have promised to involve other political forces in their new government.
The withdrawal of the last American soldiers from Kabul on Tuesday evening also marked the end of the military evacuation of vulnerable American citizens, allies and Afghans. According to President Joe Biden, Americans left behind and others seeking protection want the United States to continue to use diplomatic means to get them out of the country as much as possible. Biden wanted to comment on the withdrawal Tuesday (7:30 p.m. CET) in an address to the nation.
“The United Nations remains”
With the withdrawal, the West cedes the country to the Islamists it had driven out at the end of 2001. The United States and its allies had more than 100,000 troops in action, the United States recording the heaviest losses. “We have lost 2,461 troops in this war,” US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said at the end of the mission. Tens of thousands more suffered visible and invisible injuries. “Battle scars don’t heal easily, and often don’t heal at all,” Austin said.
The World Food Program wishes to maintain a humanitarian airlift in the country. A World Health Organization (WHO) supply flight also reached Mazar-i-Sharif on Monday. In the coming days, two more flights are planned, which should also serve Kabul, said a spokesperson for the WHO in Geneva. They are supposed to bring equipment into the country and get people out by plane. “The armies have withdrawn, the United Nations remains,” OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke said in Geneva. According to UN estimates, around 18.4 million people in the country are dependent on aid.
Federal Foreign Minister Maas called for a better understanding of the objectives before future military operations. Military operations are not suited “to export a long-term form of government,” Maas said in Islamabad. The attempt failed in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer spoke out against specific quotas for people in need of protection at a special EU meeting in Brussels. We do not want to trigger a “pulling effect” (suction effect).
The Bundeswehr had already completed its evacuation of people in need of protection on Thursday, France, Spain and Great Britain followed Friday and Saturday. But there are still tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan who want to flee the Taliban – most of them Afghans. According to the US State Department, there are still between 100 and 200 Americans in Afghanistan who want to leave the country, and according to British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, there is a “low three-digit number” among the British . Most of them are “hard cases” due to the lack of papers, Raab said.
In a massive evacuation mission, which US President Biden described as the “biggest airlift in US history,” the US and its partners airlifted compatriots and Afghans in need of protection. According to General Kenneth McKenzie, the US military alone transported 79,000 civilians from Kabul, including about 6,000 Americans. According to him, the United States and its allies have collectively displaced more than 123,000 people. The Bundeswehr stole more than 5,000.
Does the Taliban allow other exits?
In the event of further evacuations, following the American withdrawal, Western states now depend on cooperation with the Taliban. They have at least promised to allow people to leave the country. Foreign Minister Maas is currently traveling to several countries neighboring Afghanistan to discuss the admission of Afghan refugees. Germany wants to help more than 40,000 people leave the country – by land or directly by plane from Kabul. However, the damaged civil part of the airport is currently unable to handle the flights.
The UN Security Council on Monday increased pressure on the Taliban to uphold human rights and allow those who wish to leave the country to pass safely. UN resolutions are binding under international law. However, the resolution does not mention a UN safe zone, which was last set up by French President Emmanuel Macron.
Residents of Kabul spoke of a generally calm start to the day on Tuesday. Most shops in the Schahr-e Nau district are open, said Lotfullah, who lives in the center. A few banks reportedly reopened large branches after two weeks. Hundreds of people lined up to withdraw money. Many Taliban are not visible. A resident of Dascht-e Bartschi district in western Kabul said private and public schools have reopened for the first time since the Taliban came to power. All students up to the sixth grade are back in class.
Famous women’s rights activist Fausia Kufi called on the Taliban to build the country together. The wealth of Afghanistan is its young people, girls and boys, those who are in the country and those who will return in the future, Kufi wrote on Twitter. “This land belongs to all of us.
Pandjir, in the northeast, is currently the only one of the 34 provinces not yet under Taliban control. According to resistance fighters, the Taliban tried to enter it. The Islamists have lost seven or eight fighters in the fighting, National Resistance Front spokesman Fahim Dashti said. The Taliban, who were unable to conquer Punjir even during their first reign, initially made no comment.