Escape from Afghanistan, Part II: The Dramatic Rescue of German Staff and Local Hires in Kabul

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In fact, though, several hundred German citizens are in the country when the Taliban take power, most of them native Afghans who have a German passport and live in Kabul. They have never reported to the embassy since they were living in their home country, after all. Now, though, they are placing calls by the minute to the Foreign Ministry’s hotline, which is rapidly overloaded. Quickly, people from all over the ministry are pulled in to answer the phones, including attachés-in-training from the diplomat training center. But it’s not enough. It takes many callers several hours to get through, if they do at all. And if their calls are answered, they are frequently told to have patience and that someone will get back in touch with them – which never happens.

The list of German local hires is also growing by the day. For months, the Development Ministry had resisted helping its employees get out of the country. But now, the ministry surprisingly announces that it has over a thousand helpers who now want to flee the country. Together with their families, the ministry’s list is suddenly over 4,300 names long.

Maas, Kramp-Karrenbauer and their staffs are being bombarded with new names of people who must urgently be rescued. Parliamentarians are calling, former ministers, CEOs, former military officers, NGOs, exile associations and even private citizens. It seems as though in this week in August, every German in the country knows somebody in Afghanistan who needs help.

Most of the Afghans are polite, many are desperate, and some are impertinent. They swear, beg and even issue threats.

The mobile phone numbers of the Germans in Kabul also begin spreading rapidly among those seeking help. Van Thiel, Fish, Arlt, the diplomats, police offers and soldiers at the Kabul airport – all of them are flooded with calls, their mobile phones ringing constantly, even at night.

Officials in Berlin have long since lost a complete overview of the list of names – if they ever had one in the first place. The result is that the Foreign Ministry is continually sending new lists to Kabul, many of them not even alphabetized.

The Afghan practice in which family names are frequently not used doesn’t make things any easier, nor do the different spellings. In theory, a situation could arise in which the Bundeswehr has a “Rauf” on its list, the Development Ministry a “Raouf,” the Foreign Ministry a “Rawoof” and the police a “Ravo” – and they all refer to one and the same person. How are the soldiers at the airport gate supposed to know who to let in and who to keep out?

In Kabul, meanwhile, many people have started thinking that the crisis task force in Berlin doesn’t really understand what is happening at the airport.

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