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Merkel, Kramp-Karrenbauer meet Afghan veterans

September 22, 2021

Germany's Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer praised Bundeswehr soldiers for "achieving incredible things" by getting thousands out of Afghanistan.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer meet the Bundeswehr soldiers in Seefeld
Merkel (l) and her defense minister Kramp-Karrenbauer visited the base housing Germany's 31. Parachute RegimentImage: Fabian Bimmer/REUTERS

German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined Defense Minister Kramp-Karrenbauer on Wednesday in paying tribute to German troops who took part in last month's evacuation mission in Afghanistan.

Merkel and Kramp-Karrenbauer attended a roll call of Afghan returnees at the base of Germany's 31. Parachute Regiment in Lower Saxony.

Reflecting on the Afghanistan operation which involved some 600 forces, the defense minister said the troops had "achieved incredible things" in bringing more than 5,300 people to safety.

Germany owes those involved "a great debt of gratitude," Kramp-Karrenbauer said of the mission at Kabul airport after the Taliban swept to power last month.

Wounds 'that cannot be seen'

With the hub of operations at Kabul airport, the 11-day mission took place towards the end of August and was the largest evacuation process in the history of the Bundeswehr.

Kramp-Karrenbauer expressed relief that no German soldiers had been killed during the evacuation. She also recognized the 13 US soldiers who died in an attack while securing the airport.

Germany's defense minister also recalled the 59 Bundeswehr soldiers who had died during the 20-year Afghanistan mission and pointed to the soldiers "who have sustained wounds — even those that cannot be seen."

German minister hints at EU army

The defense minister extolled the virtues of stronger military cooperation in Europe.

EU member states, she said, would have to summon the will to be able to "give the EU real capacity to act for its own security."

Kramp-Karrenbauer said Europe and the European pillar of the US-allied NATO must become an actor "that operates at eye level with others."

jsi/dj (dpa, AFP)