German president says Kabul airport chaos ‘shameful for the West’

Frank-Walter Steinmeier says Berlin shares responsibility for unfolding ‘human tragedy’ in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

At least seven people were killed at the Hamid Karzai International Airport on Monday as thousands thronged towards it, creating chaos in the terminals and on the tarmac [Shekib Rahmani/AP]

Germany’s president says the images of crowds of Afghans desperately attempting to flee Kabul airport after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan are “shameful for the political West”.

At least seven people were killed at the Hamid Karzai International Airport on Monday as thousands thronged towards it.

In shocking scenes captured on video, some scaled a United States Air Force plane as it prepared to take off. At least two people appeared to fall from the jet after it left the ground, plummeting to their deaths.

In other footage, US soldiers managing the airport appeared to fire warning shots in the air as crowds surged.

The clips, shared widely on social media, were described by some commentators as the “defining images” of the decades-long military intervention in Afghanistan by Western powers, including Germany.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier described the airport scenes as “images of desperation” and said the situation in Afghanistan was a “human tragedy” for which Berlin shares responsibility.

Germany is duty-bound to “do everything it can to bring our people, and all Afghans who stood for years by their side, to safety”, he said.

Steinmeier, a former foreign minister whose current role is largely ceremonial, added that Germany must also help those in Afghanistan who are at risk amid the resurgence of the Taliban, including “many courageous women”.

“The failure of the years-long efforts to build a stable and viable society in Afghanistan raises fundamental questions for the past and future of our foreign policy and military engagement,” he said.

German forces were deployed for almost two decades in Afghanistan as part of the US-led incursion launched after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The invasion, which toppled the Taliban 20 years ago, is currently being wound down by Washington and allied forces with the withdrawal of foreign troops.

In recent days, the US and several of Washington’s allies, including the United Kingdom, France and Germany, have been trying to arrange evacuation flights out of Kabul.

Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday said the country must urgently evacuate up to 10,000 people from Afghanistan for whom it has responsibility, including Afghan support staff, rights activists, lawyers and others the government sees as being at risk if they remained in the country.

In a separate development, Germany said it has suspended its development aid to Afghanistan after the Taliban’s takeover.

German Development Minister Gerd Mueller told the daily newspaper Rheinische Post on Tuesday that “the state-run development aid has currently been suspended.”

Mueller added that all German and international employees of the German developmental agency GIZ had left the country and Berlin was now trying to get local Afghan staff evacuated.

German news agency dpa reported that until now, Afghanistan received the most German developmental aid in the world.

The agency reported that the German government had planned to give an estimated 250 million euros ($294m) in developmental aid in 2021, but that money had not been paid out.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies