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Monday, March 20, 2023

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A case for the elite troops

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Two women and a boy with nine KSK soldiers around them in a semicircle – a private photo from Kabul documents the end of a successful rescue operation and at the same time the increasingly difficult situation. Because it took the elite fighters to escort a Munich high school graduate, her brother and mother to the airport that night. Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU) describes the situation on Monday as “very, very tense”. During the night, soldiers, including Germans, fought a gun battle with strangers at an airport gate. An Afghan died. And every day it seems less likely that even people on official lists can be evacuated.

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The three rescued people who live in Munich were visiting relatives on the day of the fall of Kabul. As the “Spiegel” and the television magazine Report Mainz report, they had been trying in vain for days to get through the crowd in front of the airport gates to a gate.

According to Kramp-Karrenbauer “Bild TV”, this is now made even more difficult by a chain of “young, strong men” who build themselves up in front and hinder families. Blackmail has also been heard from Kabul. Desperate people are cashed in if they want to get to the gates that save them.

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In any case, the German commander Jens Arlt decided that night to send the KSK troop at the southeastern “Abbey Gate” in front of the walls in order to find the small group under cover of darkness – the young woman’s cell phone was empty – and in the Airport to bring. According to the media report, they only got through now because the Foreign Office had apparently refused the mother’s departure for days. Unlike her children, she does not have a German passport, but lives in Munich with a residence permit.

Such actions outside the airport walls will now take place more often. The shots at the north gate late at night, in which the Bundeswehr and US soldiers involved were unharmed, the blockade by the young men, and increasing threats “also from other terrorist groups” (Kramp-Karrenbauer) do it to local staff and others harder to find your way through the chaos.

These “other” terrorists primarily mean the Afghan offshoot of the “Islamic State” (IS) terrorist network, which is hostile to the Taliban. There is great concern that a suicide bomber could cause a massacre in the crowd in front of the gate.

The consequence of all of this: the soldiers would have to “go much harder to pick up people,” says Kramp-Karrenbauer. Nobody talks aloud about details at all possible. But the KSK fighters were obviously not in the city itself, but around the room around the airport.

The two KSK small helicopters that have been in Kabul since Saturday have also not yet been used. Her husband on site, in coordination with the USA, makes this decision autonomously, the minister emphasized: “If I really have a lot of trust in a person, then it is General Arlt.” there.”

In fact, the effort and effect for a helicopter action by the Germans are currently disproportionate from the point of view of the relevant US commander. The Airbus helicopters can only accommodate about half a dozen people. The Americans would also have to park their own helicopter as air cover. So far, despite all the difficulties, it has still been possible to bring many people to the airport by land every day.

The US Army recently flew around 10,000 people within 24 hours. The Bundeswehr’s shuttle service to Tashkent in Uzbekistan continued with overcrowded A400M transport machines. By Monday they had evacuated a total of 3,000 people, including around 1,800 Afghans.
But the rescuers are running out of time. A good 10,000 people are on the German list of wards alone, and new ones are added every day. US President Joe Biden has indicated that he can imagine extending the deployment beyond the official American withdrawal date August 31. Germany and other allies would welcome that. The G-7 video summit this Tuesday is to discuss an extension.

But a Taliban spokesman categorically refused. The fact that foreign military stays in the country for longer would run counter to the Doha agreements with the United States, he stressed. Any attempt to shake it will lead to “consequences”.

It is more than uncertain whether the new masters in the Hindu Kush will still be able to talk to them about this symbolic question. So far, they have been cooperative in the evacuation campaign: “What you need is granted,” emphasized Kramp-Karrenbauer.

She is skeptical about holding her position at the airport against the will of the Taliban: There is no point in staying longer if it would endanger more people than save them. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) instead wants to sound out whether civil aircraft could continue the evacuation after the withdrawal of the military.

The defense minister is also more likely to get German local staff out of the country later, in weeks or months. “If I have to sit down at the table with the Taliban to do this, even as a government, then I will.” Even if your stomach turns at the thought of who is sitting on the other side of the table. But her well-being, says Kramp-Karrenbauer, really doesn’t matter.

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