Top German diplomat sits down with Taliban for Qatar talks

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Top German diplomat sits down with Taliban for Qatar talks

Germany’s top envoy for Afghanistan has pleaded with Taliban officials in Qatar to let Afghans desperate to leave their country pass through tightly guarded checkpoints outside Kabul’s international airport.

Markus Potzel, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, is the highest-ranking Western diplomat to speak face-to-face with the Taliban since they completed their reconquest of the war-torn country over the weekend.

Berlin’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted that Potzel had been holding talks with the Taliban since Wednesday, with a focus on “enabling the Afghans to leave the country and ensuring security.” The ministry added that Potzel would “continue his talks with international partners.”

Mohammad Naeem, described as the spokesman for the Taliban’s “Political Office”, tweeted Thursday that Potzel had “promised to continue and expand humanitarian aid to his country in Afghanistan.”

“The meeting also discussed the importance and necessity of a positive attitude and mutual understanding with the international community and maintaining the activity of Kabul Airport,” Naeem euphemistically added.

The Germany military has played a key role in the frantic evacuation from Hamid Karzai International Airport. Berlin’s Defense Ministry said Thursday it had managed to get 900 people out of Afghanistan so far, a number that includes German citizens as well as Afghans fleeing the carnage.

Markus Potzel, Germany's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, had a meeting with Taliban representatives in Qatar.
Markus Potzel, Germany’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, had a meeting with Taliban representatives in Qatar.
Photo by Michael Gottschalk/Photothek via Getty Images

Merkel said Monday that she expected as many as 10,000 people to be evacuated from Afghanistan to Germany.

Berlin pulled its last combat troops out of Afghanistan at the end of June. More than 150,000 German soldiers had served in the country over the previous two decades — more than any other country except the US — as part of the NATO force that expelled the Taliban from power late in 2001 and unsuccessfully sought to establish a parliamentary democracy.

As in most of Europe, German politicians have expressed shock and anger at the haphazard execution of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“We are experiencing a human tragedy for which we share responsibility,” President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement Tuesday, before adding that “The images of despair at Kabul airport shame the political West.”

“I say this with a heavy heart and with horror over what is happening, but the early withdrawal was a serious and far-reaching miscalculation by the current administration,” Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the German parliament’s foreign relations committee, told Politico. “This does fundamental damage to the political and moral credibility of the West.”

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