A grateful Afghanistan says goodbye to Germany’s Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be leaving office soon after overseeing the most stable economy of the European Union for the past 16 years. Afghans have joined the rest of the world to say farewell to the German leader whom they saw as one of their greatest supporters and sympathizers.
As I write these words, our country is going through difficult times as most of our fundamental liberties, including freedom of expression, are at risk in the wake of recent developments.
Germany was one of the countries that evacuated several thousand “at-risk” Afghans. Merkel had earlier announced that up to 40,000 vulnerable Afghans might be eligible for evacuation. The announcement was welcomed by Afghans as a great gesture of goodwill by the German leader whom they owe a big “thank you” to for all she did for Afghanistan over the past decade and a half.
Since the former government’s collapse and the ensuing Taliban takeover, countries that had military or civilian missions in Afghanistan made it a priority to get Afghans who supported their mission — as interpreters or in other technical and managerial capacities — to safety. The international community’s engagement with Afghanistan required local partnership so now is the time to help those vulnerable Afghans and maintain a future political role in this part of the world.
Those flown out to safety by Germany included local employees of the German military, civilian and diplomatic missions, former Afghan government officials, and affiliates of the civil society organizations. Although Germany shut down its diplomatic mission in Afghanistan on Aug. 15, it has been an advocate for continuing financial assistance to the Afghan people through other support channels. Germany’s perceived argument questions why innocent Afghan people should suffer just because of the former Afghan government’s incompetency to preserve the country’s gains of the past two decades.
Afghans are particularly grateful to Angela Merkel as thousands of Afghans have been provided safety in Germany during her tenure
After the government collapse this past summer, the Afghan economy has rapidly descended into chaos. The UN urged world leaders at the G20 summit in Rome to pump billions of dollars into the Afghan economy to avert the looming crisis. Without international monetary assistance, the county will continue to descend into a failed state and will, once again, become a breeding ground for international terrorism. Germany has acknowledged the seriousness of the situation and has already pledged a generous relief package to help Afghan communities.
Merkel conceded and shared responsibility for misjudging the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. She also called for a thorough investigation into what actually went wrong. The international community invested so much into the Afghan government. So how did it collapse so quickly? The German leader’s bold statements reminded me of Afghan rulers who believed they were always right. The kind of leaders who make no sacrifice when they have to decide between personal and national interests with their political careers at risk.
Merkel’s generous stance with regards to granting political asylum to those at risk and a more open immigration policy has won her many friends worldwide. Afghans are particularly grateful to her as thousands of Afghans have been provided safety in Germany during her tenure.
During the global financial crisis, Merkel, who was a strong advocate of the integrity of the EU, passed a major test. She protected her own country and also bailed out several other European countries that were on the brink of disaster. A shrewd politician and charismatic leader, Merkel is popular globally for her broad views on world peace, security, social justice, and prosperity.
As a grateful nation, Afghans will always remember her generous support for Afghanistan throughout her time in power. It is hoped her successor will continue to support the Afghan people, those who still arrive in Germany for safety, and the millions of those that still remain in the country facing an uncertain future.
- Ajmal Shams is vice president of the Afghanistan Social Democratic Party. He is a former deputy minister in the Afghan National Unity Government. Twitter: @ajmshams