In August 2021, the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan. The dramatic images of the fall of Kabul were seen around the world. Since then, Afghanistan has been in a serious crisis. In light of the difficult situation, Foreign Minister Baerbock stressed:
Many people live in constant fear. That applies in particular to those who worked with us to give Afghanistan a better future, who believed in this better future and lived for that vision. The situation is most difficult for women and girls, who are particularly at risk. We have a responsibility towards these people, and we will not abandon them.
More than 15,000 people who have a firm assurance that they can come to Germany are still in Afghanistan. There are 135 German nationals still in the country who have not left yet, partly due to their personal circumstances. Today, ahead of the New Year, it is important to me to say to all of them that they are not forgotten. We will not relax our efforts but are working hard to bring them to safety.
Urgent assistance for Afghanistan
At the same time, Afghanistan is currently heading towards a dramatic humanitarian crisis. Large parts of the economy have collapsed and many people are already suffering from hunger. More than half of Afghanistan’s population, more than 24 million people, will need humanitarian assistance this winter in order to survive. Against this background, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock emphasised the urgency of Germany’s support for Afghanistan:
Terrorist organisations such as Islamic State have already begun to take advantage of people’s despair and hopelessness by recruiting new members. And repeatedly reports are reaching us of serious human rights violations, despite all the assurances from the Taliban.
As the new Federal Government we are determined not to look away now but to act, and act quickly. We have agreed on an action plan with initial concrete steps which we intend to implement immediately.
Action Plan for Afghanistan
In view of the difficult situation in Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock outlined the guidelines to be included in an action plan for Afghanistan. The focus will be on the following measures:
- Joint lessons from our Afghanistan engagement to date: The ministries, together with the Bundestag, will now have to learn the lessons from past developments. To this end, we have begun to analyse which instruments work well and where improvements are needed in order to provide quicker and more targeted assistance to people in Afghanistan. The experiences of civil society and enterprises, which have already played a key role in the evacuations, should be actively incorporated.
Acceleration of the exit from Afghanistan: The Federal Foreign Office will coordinate its work on this to a greater extent than previously with civil society. A regular exchange will be established to improve coordination and pool resources. Furthermore, there will be a renewed attempt within the framework of the talks with Iran, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to open up additional routes out of Afghanistan. The good cooperation with Qatar and Pakistan will be continued.
Elimination of bureaucratic obstacles to facilitate entry and travel to Germany for Afghan nationals particularly at risk and to reduce the hurdles in the current visa procedure: In certain cases this could involve digital data collection and security assessment prior to departure and the issuing of visas in transit countries or upon arrival in Germany. Furthermore, talks are being held to reduce the red tape for all routes out of Afghanistan. When it comes to defining the immediate family of those who have been granted approval for admission to Germany and assessing cases of hardship, greater consideration should be given to the realities of people’s lives.
A humanitarian programme for the admission of Afghan nationals to Germany will be put in place with a view to taking into account the special circumstances of women and girls in need of protection, as well as people with family ties in Germany. Civil society will be involved in this from the outset. Family reunifications are also to be simplified and speeded up.
Expansion of humanitarian assistance to avert a humanitarian disaster of a barely imaginable scale: Germany has already provided 600 million euro in humanitarian assistance, thus making it the largest donor country. These funds are already available for the winter months, when cold weather and starvation loom. Foreign Minister Baerbock announced that she will reach out to the German Bundestag to ensure that the assistance needed to help people survive is made available again in the coming year.
German humanitarian assistance will be provided solely via the UN and other independent organisations to ensure that the assistance gets through to where it is most needed – and does not fall into the hands of the Taliban.
In addition, it must be ensured that urgently needed assistance is not blocked by international sanctions. To this end, talks are being held with international partners, particularly the United States. Germany has offered to take part in a monitoring mechanism.
Germany’s presence in Afghanistan: In order to be able to better help people in Afghanistan and to undertake a more accurate and direct assessment of the situation, the Federal Foreign Office – in close coordination with European and international partners – is planning to be present and operational in Afghanistan next year and to have its own personnel in Kabul.
Special support for women and girls: Germany is prepared in principle to contribute to teachers’ salaries to enable girls to continue to attend school in the same way as boys. This is conditional on girls being allowed to learn and women being permitted to teach, and on the retention of the existing curricula.
Moreover, the Federal Foreign Office will create additional scholarships for female Afghan students to study in the region via the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative, thereby paving the way for young Afghan women to embark on a new life through education.
Women in Afghanistan should be better protected from gender-specific violence. In order to achieve that, the Federal Foreign Office is working in coordination with UN Women to increase the number of advice centres and women’s refuges and help to ensure that the voice of women’s rights activists are heard in high-level dialogue formats.
Support for Afghan civil society: Concrete projects will help representatives of civil society to continue their work in Afghanistan. Protection and support programmes for human rights defenders as well as media professionals forced to leave Afghanistan will enable them to carry on with their work from Germany or other countries. Scholarships in Germany specifically for journalists will be made available and projects to maintain an open media landscape in Afghanistan will be developed.