Va year ago Kabul fell. After 20 years of war and thousands dead, the Taliban had brought the United States and its allies to their knees. Americans and Europeans fled the Afghan capital headlong when the victorious Islamists entered on August 15. Thousands of former helpers of the Germans and their families stayed behind.
The government had long resisted flying them out, but now it was too late. In August last year, tens of thousands of desperate people crowded into Kabul airport in the desperate hope of somehow getting out of the country.
A breakneck mission by the Bundeswehr got some of them out after all. Among them was Najeb F., who had worked as an interpreter at the German embassy. The young man managed to escape. But his four sisters stayed behind, as did their parents. According to the German rules, they were not part of the “nuclear family”, that is only spouses and children. In the meantime, the unmarried Najeb F. has arrived in Germany.
Then came a termination agreement
However, the Foreign Office, his old employer, did not support him. On the contrary. In August last year, the Germany helper was almost trampled to death in the crush in front of the north gate at Kabul Airport. Americans hit him with their guns, police officers with sticks, as he reported, he fell to the ground. The few personal belongings were torn out of the backpack of the 28-year-old Afghan in the turmoil.
All he has left of his life so far are a few documents and dollar bills, a few photos from his former officer training, a T-shirt and beige trousers. A few weeks later, while he was now living with a German friend near Bonn, a German document was added: the Foreign Office sent Najeb F. a termination agreement. However, the office keeps in touch with its former “local employees”, some of whom look after the abandoned embassy in Kabul.
Kabul fell on August 15. Just two days earlier, the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) had reported to the federal government that something like this could happen in four weeks at the earliest, and that a capture of the city was “rather unlikely”. According to the intelligence service, the Taliban leadership “has no interest in taking Kabul militarily.” At least that’s how it was read in a protocol that was circulating in Berlin shortly afterwards. The BND was in good company with its misinterpretation: After two decades in the Hindu Kush, the West knew neither its wartime opponents nor its Afghan allies.
The assessment that the Taliban could not force their way into Kabul was consistent with the assumption that the Afghan army would resist fiercely. But she didn’t. And not because their soldiers couldn’t or didn’t want to fight, as it was soon reproachfully said in Berlin. But because corruption had eaten away at their leadership and because the Afghan army could not fight at all without massive US logistics.
Where has all that money gone?
What escaped the intelligence services and the diplomats was that politicians and generals in the Afghan government had long since organized alternative quarters abroad and set up money deposits there, financed with aid from the international community. Corruption in the army has long been known, but little has been done about it. The large amount of money that the West has invested in Afghanistan since 2002 has “not always arrived where it was supposed to,” said the diplomat Markus Potzel very diplomatically.