German aid group fights to evacuate Afghans who worked with army

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By Alexandre Ratz

BERLIN (Reuters) – Ahmad, a 30-year-old Afghan who worked for the German army, is now hiding in Kabul, fearing for his life.

Like many other local employees who worked for Western governments and their armies, Ahmad was left behind when the International Security Assistance Force withdrew in August.

“I’m sure when the Taliban finds out that I worked for ISAF, it will be the last day of my life,” he told Reuters via Skype.

Ahmad says his contact at the German Ministry of Defense last called him in October. “‘We’ll take you out,’ he told me,” Ahmad recalled, but nothing happened.

Today Ahmad is in contact with the Patenschaftsnetzwerk Afghanische Ortskraefte, a private German aid group that tries to help people like him flee the country.

The group says it could evacuate thousands of former aid workers from Afghanistan if it had public money.

Talks with government officials in Berlin over the issue have begun but are progressing slowly, said group leader Marcus Grotian, a German army officer who was himself stationed in the northern town of Kunduz of Afghanistan in 2011.

He estimates that around 12,000 people in Afghanistan may still be eligible to go to Germany because they worked for the German military during the international mission there, or fought for women’s rights and human rights. in the country now controlled by the Taliban.

The German government says it is doing everything possible to help former local employees leave Afghanistan.

“Are we happy with how quickly we are getting people from Afghanistan to safety? No, definitely not,” said a Foreign Office spokesperson in Berlin. “We’d rather have them all brought here already.”

Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, Germany has issued about 11,700 visas for residents, the spokesman said. But it is difficult to get them out because Germany does not have an embassy or consulate at the moment.

So far, Grotian’s organization has brought some 300 such people out of Afghanistan, provided them with the necessary documents and brought them to Germany via Pakistan or Iran.

“We must act,” he added, referring to reports of stonings and other human rights abuses by the Taliban, particularly targeting people who cooperated with international forces.

One person the group has helped is Mohammadi, a 32-year-old engineer who worked as a translator in Afghanistan for the German military from 2010 until the mission ended in 2021.

Last August, Mohammadi flew to Kabul’s beleaguered airport several times but was unable to get himself, his wife and their three children out of Afghanistan, he told Reuters.

“Finally, I got a contact at Patenschaftnetzwerk, and they got us out,” Mohammadi said. He and his family arrived in Germany in October 2021. “I am very grateful,” he said.

(Editing by Paul Carrel and Alison Williams)

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