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KSK soldiers in Afghanistan: a “mental scar” remains

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To: 06/28/2022 16:38

It was the largest evacuation mission of the Bundeswehr abroad. Now, for the first time, soldiers are giving insight into the operation in Kabul almost a year ago. They welcome a reassessment of events.

By Marie Blocher, Gabor Halasz, Christoph Heinzle, Volkmar Kabisch, Martin Kaul, NDR/WDR

For the first time since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, paratroopers and soldiers from the Special Forces Command (KSK) provide an in-depth look at the Bundeswehr’s largest evacuation mission abroad to date . Fearing the approach of the Taliban, thousands stormed Kabul airfield in August 2021 to secure a seat on a westbound plane.

Kabul’s lightning-fast takeover caused a stir around the world and also sparked a political debate in Germany over the Bundeswehr’s 20-year deployment and the federal government’s treatment of local forces in Afghanistan.

cooperation with the Taliban

At NDR and WDR For the first time, German paratroopers and commandos tell in detail how they experienced the delicate evacuation mission in Kabul. A KSK lieutenant-colonel, deployed as a commando commander at Kabul airport, takes stock:

The Taliban have been our military adversary in Afghanistan for 20 years. We fought them. We chased them away. They attacked us. And suddenly they conquer province after province in a dazzling campaign. They take control of the whole country and end up conquering the capital as well.

Suddenly confronting this former enemy in Kabul every day was a “surreal feeling”, says the commando leader.

During the military deployment of international troops at Kabul airport, the Taliban formed an outer circle of security around the airport and thus partially supported the evacuation mission. During their deployment, the commando soldier reports, the comrades experienced “what people are willing to do to escape and how barbaric people can be to each other.” It also leaves “a certain mental scar”.

Improvise in the face of the dead

A Bundeswehr paramedic from the 31st Parachute Regiment in Seedorf, who treated the wounded at Kabul airport, accompanied the shot dead and cared for children, describes how the Bundeswehr had to improvise in the face of the corpses: “What I do with such a dead person in the situation? You have to imagine, there are children standing and watching. What do you do with them – you put a rescue blanket over them and put them in the shade. Soldiers also describe how children were repeatedly used to gain access to the airfield.

The commander responsible for the evacuation mission, Jens Arlt, also gives an overview of the course of the operation. Before the operation began, he told his men and women, “I don’t know what to expect. You have to expect everything. I can’t guarantee that we will all be back.

The Brigadier General, who was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit for his work in military evacuation, welcomes the forthcoming parliamentary clarification of the mission in Afghanistan: “In my opinion, it is very important that these 20 years are used to clean them, analyze, “says Arlt. “I think we can learn a lot from these 20 years.

Reconstruction of the last hours

A research team from NDR and WDR re-enacted the last days at Kabul airport and interviewed not only Bundeswehr soldiers, but also diplomats, local staff, Taliban representatives and high-ranking politicians from the overthrown Afghan government. Former Federal Government Special Representative and Ambassador to Afghanistan Markus Potzel says of the behind-the-scenes diplomatic processes: “I practically made a deal with the Taliban representatives here so that people, Afghans with documents of travel, also leave the country. It worked. However, the bottleneck was actually the airport.”

The delicate evacuation mission to rescue German nationals and local workers was preceded by a months-long standoff between different ministries, who had failed to agree on simplified visa procedures for workers locals at risk in Afghanistan. To this day, thousands of former local employees who worked for the Bundeswehr or German organizations are still in Afghanistan.

At the beginning of July, the German Bundestag must decide on the creation of a parliamentary inquiry committee and a commission of inquiry to investigate the mission in Afghanistan. Ten months after the dramatic takeover of the Afghan capital Kabul by the Taliban, the political process of awareness of the situation has also begun in Germany.

The case of Kabul

Christoph Heinzle, NDR, June 28, 2022 at 4:38 p.m.

Source www.tagesschau.de

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