Minister, the defeat of the West in Afghanistan was foreseeable.

Internal reports by the American government have long painted a depressing picture.

It was said back in 2018 that the American public had been lied to about the truth for years.

You took office in July 2019.

Have you ever read such reports?

Peter Carstens

Political correspondent in Berlin

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I flew to Afghanistan early and held talks in Kabul, including with American commander-in-chief Miller, who knew the situation well. At that time, the Trump administration was already holding talks with the Taliban. The impression arose that the talks were separate from what was happening within Afghanistan. That is why I insisted on the need to involve the Afghan government. Regarding the deployment of the Bundeswehr at the time: The training measures were definitely successful, in particular the Air Force and the special forces developed well. The later disastrous situation of the army was not yet apparent to me at the time.

President Biden is known to have campaigned for the withdrawal from Afghanistan since his time as Vice President.

Long in vain.

What was it like in the German government - didn't you get the impression that it was as risky as it was pointless to leave hundreds of German soldiers in Afghanistan?

The truth is that the mission has changed a lot in recent years, and is less dangerous.

The agreement between Trump and the Taliban was on the table, and my British counterpart called it a “rotten deal”.

If you look at what was performance and what was in return, you can only say: That's right.

In NATO we said in unison that the withdrawal was conditional, ie “conditions-based”.

In the end, everything was tied to a withdrawal date and no further conditions, that was bad.

The collapse then came quickly, but not unexpectedly. How did it happen that tens of thousands of people seeking protection from their own area of ​​responsibility were not helped?

Nobody expected this rapid fall in Kabul; in the meantime I have also looked at reports from our allies. Then almost half the country tried to leave Afghanistan quickly. I raised the question of local staff very early on in the federal government. We managed to get the majority of those who worked for the Bundeswehr over the past two years out of the country before the situation got worse. But those who were then added by further agreements in the federal government could no longer be provided with visas. And that's what drives me personally too. I addressed that very early on, but it took until well into the summer before we could really get it through in the federal government. Now it has to be aboutto get these people out as quickly as possible by diplomatic means. But there will also be helpers from development cooperation who want to stay and who are also needed if we want to provide humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.

When the Bundeswehr rescue mission started, it was late. Nevertheless, General Arlt and his men and women managed to fly out more than 5,000 Germans, allies and Afghans. How did you experience these days?

We were the third largest contingent in Kabul after the United States and Great Britain, and we were one of the first European forces there. The moment we learned that the Americans were transferring 3,000 men to the airport, we triggered everything here to start the mission. In retrospect, I can say that General Arlt was exactly the right man in the right place. And it has proven that, with our backing, he had all the freedom to operate on site. Those were incredibly intense days with great worries, little sleep and a very flat hierarchy. Basically, at the table we are now sitting at, all decisions were made in constant contact with General Arlt. That was an intense time that I will never forget. The last 24, 30 hours in particular were nerve-wracking,because we wanted to fly out as many as possible and at the same time knew that suicide bombers were in the city. It was a race against time.

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