Germany pledges to speed up Afghanistan evacuation efforts

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s new foreign minister pledged Thursday to speed up efforts to get thousands of former local employees and other endangered people out of Afghanistan, four months after the country’s military airlift ended.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that more than 15,000 people whom Germany had promised to take in remain in Afghanistan, and around 135 German citizens are still in the country. She insisted that “they have not been forgotten.”

Germany so far has facilitated the departure of about 10,000 people since the Taliban takeover of Kabul, 5,300 on its own military flights and some 5,000 by other means after its airlift concluded in late August.

Baerbock said Germany is looking to see how it can speed up its procedures, because “particularly for women and girls, every day counts at the moment.” She said there need to be new talks with Iran, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan — three of Afghanistan’s neighbors — to open up new routes out of the country. Germany has been working with Pakistan and Qatar to get people out.

The government will work to cut down on bureaucracy and will be more flexible in defining the “core family” of people it is taking in, the minister said.

Baerbock said that expanding humanitarian aid is an “absolute priority.” But she made clear that Germany’s opposition to recognizing the Taliban government remains unchanged, saying that “there is absolutely no reason to politically upgrade the Taliban’s de facto government in any way.”

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