After the collapse of Afghanistan, Armin Laschet and other politicians warn that many refugees could make their way to Germany. But what is really coming to Europe now after the crisis in the Hindu Kush? Migration researcher and architect of the first EU-Turkey deal, Gerald Knaus, has a clear opinion on the matter.
FOCUS Online: In April 2010, the German Chancellor said the following sentence in her government declaration: "The fact that Afghan women today have more rights than before, that girls are allowed to go to school, that roads are being built and that much, much more has been achieved, is the result of our mission in Afghanistan. It’s worth it, and worth some effort." From today’s perspective, the question arises whether it was really ever about the welfare of the local population, or?
Gerald Knaus: The most important question now is whether Germany will help these courageous women who have a legitimate fear of persecution from the Taliban? Politicians of all parties have proposed something like this in recent days, but will it happen? The German government should make a strong case for this and, like Canada, also give a figure for how many it would be willing to take in. In the case of small Canada, it is 20.000. If the German government does not do this, it also answers your question.
Refugees: "The fear of a 2015 scenario is a chimera"
Armin Laschet said on Monday that this time it is necessary to provide humanitarian aid in time in the region. A scenario like 2015 should not be repeated, she says. What do you think of this statement – and what must the EU’s refugee policy now do?
Knaus: But Laschet also said "the Bundeswehr must quickly bring to safety those who have become friends and allies as helpers and supporters on the ground over the past 20 years". And named "the women acutely threatened with death, who as mayors, teachers, doctors, civil servants, journalists human rights activists, members of parliament and entrepreneurs have built a free Afghanistan". But that should happen now! That is what is at stake now.
Otherwise, this intervention ends as it did for France in 1962, when it left Algeria, abandoned its local allies and lost to the 30.000 left behind were murdered. 2015, on the other hand, will certainly not be repeated. The borders are not open anywhere today, unlike back then. It’s the fear of a chimera.
However, refugee numbers are reportedly already rising on the Turkish-Iranian border.
Knaus: The border between Turkey and Iran is mountainous and difficult to cross and increasingly monitored. In recent years, walls have been built there, there are watchtowers and barbed wire, there are tens of thousands of soldiers. Turkey has no interest in allowing more refugees into the country, as sentiment in the country has deteriorated toward refugees in recent months. There will certainly not be a repeat of 2015.
Afghanistan: "Who will get out or not, cannot be predicted"
What kind of flight movements do you expect then??
Knaus: That can hardly be estimated at this time. The question is rather whether Western countries still manage to get a few hundred thousand who desperately need protection out of Afghanistan. That is now also up to the Taliban. A few weeks ago it was different, but now you have to negotiate with them about it. Who will get out or not is therefore impossible to predict. Nor who will spontaneously come to a neighboring country.
Why did the West, led by the U.S., abandon the country?? U.S. President Biden knew for sure how the situation would develop.
Knaus: Either intelligence agencies had not seen the scenario of a rapid collapse; or politicians were warned and still did not make arrangements to at least help the aid workers. Both would be disastrous. This failure now also devalues the sacrifices that many, including many German soldiers, have made in Afghanistan. Now it remains to be seen how the final chapter of this tragedy will be written: as a story of betrayal of those who stood by our side? Or will there still be an attempt to help at least some of them??
Basic facts about Afghanistan and the Taliban
This is how the Taliban came into being and became strong
Taliban, IS, and Al Qaeda: Here’s what differentiates the terror groups
Media, internet and social media channels in Afghanistan
Languages, clothing and currency in Afghanistan
Since when has Islam existed?? What does it say about Jesus in the Quran?
What is Sharia? What it means for women and homosexuals
What halal, fard, mandub and haram mean
"Germany should take its cue from the 1979 Vietnam resettlement program"
In Afghanistan, NATO’s dependence on the U.S. superpower is once again evident. In your view, who bears the main responsibility for the failure??
Knaus: Ten years ago, former United Kingdom Development Secretary Rory Stewart warned against the hubris of international occupiers and militaries who tragically overestimated themselves and their capabilities. But then hubris turned into defeatism and indifference. But this is not just a U.S. failure, it is the failure of the entire coalition.
Are there still possibilities how politics could improve the situation in Afghanistan and help the people there?? Or is it now too late for that??
Knaus: We don’t know how the situation will develop in Afghanistan in the coming weeks. The fighting is over at the moment. But also, because the Taliban are not sure of their power after this quick victory, one must fear terror and violence against those who stand for a different Afghanistan. One should expect the worst and try to prevent it by taking in these people quickly and without bureaucracy.
Germany and other countries in the EU should take a cue from the resettlement of Vietnamese refugees after 1979. And offer substantial assistance to potential first-receiving countries in the region, as envisioned by the 2018 UN Global Refugee Compact.
About Gerald Knaus
Gerald Knaus is founding director of the think tank European Stability Initiative (ESI). He is an internationally known expert and advises governments and institutions in Europe on the topics of flight, migration and human rights.