The appeal was penned by high-ranking representatives from the military, politics, development aid, and the diplomatic corps as international troops prepare to be withdrawn from Afghanistan next month.
Preparing for a Post-Departure Afghanistan: Changing political dynamics in the wake of the US troop withdrawal announcement - Afghanistan Analysts Network - English https://t.co/ygijG0t4BU— Earl Anthony Wayne (@EAnthonyWayne) June 4, 2021
“While the troops have long been preparing for their return, under increased security measures, the fears of the Afghans hired locally are growing,” states the letter, organised by the director of the Berlin-based independent think tank Afghanistan Analysts Network, Thomas Rutter.
Signatories include two former German ambassadors to Afghanistan, the former inspector general of the Bundeswehr, leading aid workers and Marcus Grotian, chair of the Patronage network of the Afghani Local Workforce.
The German military, the Bundeswehr, which has been involved in military operations in Afghanistan since 2001 and has over 1,000 troops stationed there, is estimated to have employed around 520 Afghans as interpreters, drivers, security staff, and administrators over the past two years.
All of them, along with their close family members, are potentially eligible for resettlement. To do so, they are required to prove in their applications that they have been threatened by the Taliban because of their association with foreign military forces.
Campaigners are urging a review of the eligibility time-frame. They believe it should be pushed back beyond the past two years.
They also decry the current requirement that applicants need to collect individual proof of having been threatened.
Furthermore, the group behind the appeal laments the government’s insistence that the Afghans in question should arrange and pay for their own travel. According to government sources cited by German media, all 520 Afghans have submitted “endangered notices” to government authorities in Afghanistan.
To facilitate the process, contact centres have been set up in Mazar-i-Sharif and Kabul, where Afghans who were employed by the German military can submit a visa application.
After the decision to withdraw the Bundeswehr from Kundus in the north of the country, since 2013 a targeted German relocation policy has been in place for Afghan workers. In line with it, some 800 local workers were brought into Germany. Critics argue that hundreds of others have not been offered the opportunity to seek safety.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed last week that the government was commitment to supporting the military’s former local workers.
“The government takes the concerns of Afghan local hire very seriously,” and applications are being processed as “speedily and flexibly” as possible, a spokesperson for Merkel was cited as saying.
Thousands of Afghans who worked with the international forces in the past 20 years as interpreters, security guards, and in other capacities fear retaliation from the Taliban once the foreign forces have left.
This comes as the United States and NATO forces continue to pull out after US President Joe Biden announced in April that US and coalition forces would begin their final withdrawal from May.
The drawdown is to be completed by the 20th anniversary of the 11 September 2001 terror attacks, which prompted the United States to declare a “war on terror” and invade Afghanistan, ostensibly to capture or kill terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.
The UK Ministry of Defence has also been exploring ways for military translators who fled Taliban death threats in Afghanistan and are now trapped in other countries to be allowed to seek refuge in the UK.
In what has been hailed a major breakthrough, in line with a move by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, these people no need to return to Afghanistan to submit an application to travel to the UK, reported the Daily Mail.
Up to 20 former translators are believed to be stranded in countries across Europe, as well as India, Pakistan, and Australia according to estimates, with only a small number so far told they qualify for sanctuary.
The revised Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy, however, is expected to see hundreds of interpreters currently in Afghanistan approved for sanctuary with their families. Under the new arrangements, the paperwork will be processed at a British Embassy before they travel to the UK.
As the first group of around 50 interpreters and their families is set to fly to Britain, hundreds of cases are still being processed, writes the outlet.
The developments come as the Taliban* announced that interpreters should show "remorse" for assisting so-called occupying forces in Afghanistan.
Their activities were slammed as “treasonous” in a Twitter post by the Taliban’s Commission for Cultural Affairs.
At least five coalition translators are believed to have been murdered this year, while a number of former UK interpreters have been attacked.
*The Taliban is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia