The German Ministry of Defense announced on Friday the deployment of two German Air Force H145M LUH SOF special operations helicopters to Kabul. The two helicopters will be used to support evacuations of German nationals and at-risk Afghans from Kabul, following the continued deterioration of the security situation around Kabul International Airport.
The helicopters are to be crewed by members of Germany’s Special Forces Command, who will use the helicopters to extract evacuees from locations in Kabul to the airport. The change of methods follow reports of increased Taliban checkpoints on roads heading towards Kabul International, as well as Taliban fighters firing on the airport and the crowds of civilians gathered there. German public broadcaster ARD reported on Friday that a German civilian was injured by gunfire while heading to the airport, with government spokesperson Ulrike Demmer saying that the person’s injuries were not life-threatening, and that they would be evacuated from Kabul shortly.
In comparison, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said on Wednesday at a joint press conference with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Mark Milley that the 4,500 American troops at the airport did not have the capability to “go out and collect up large numbers of people” and guarantee their safe transport to the airport. Instead, Gen. Milley said that the US would “coordinate and deconflict” with the Taliban to ensure the safe passage of American nationals through Taliban checkpoints. Despite Milley’s statements, the US Embassy in Kabul issued a security alert on the same day that “THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT CANNOT ENSURE SAFE PASSAGE TO THE HAMID KARZAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT.”
British and French forces in Kabul are reported to have entered Kabul proper following reports that Taliban fighters have been conducting door-to-door searches for Afghans who worked with coalition forces. The Telegraph reports that 2 Para has been evacuating British nationals from inside Kabul since the paratroopers’ arrival at the airport on the night of 14 August, while French President Emmanuel Macron thanked French forces on Wednesday for successfully completing a “sensitive operation” that rescued over 200 Afghans alongside French citizens and other foreign nationals.
Further compounding evacuation difficulties are allegations that U.S. forces at the airport are blocking civilians awaiting evacuation from entering the gates of the airport, resulting in several evacuation flights departing with significantly fewer evacuees than planned due to a brief 30 minute window made available to evacuation flights to take on passengers, notably a German A400M that departed with just seven people on board. In response to a request for comment by Overt Defense on accusations of American troops blocking evacuees from entering the airport, U.S. Central Command said that troops deployed at the airport were “securing an outer perimeter at the airport to ensure safe operations on both the civilian and military sides of the airport”, but did not provide a direct answer to the claims. On Friday afternoon President Biden described the efforts in Kabul as “one of the largest, most difficult airlifts in history ” during a televised address. He stopped short of commenting on U.S. evacuation efforts beyond the perimeter of Kabul’s airport but did say the U.S. would “mobilize every resource necessary” and that they were “considering every opportunity and every means by which we can get folks to the airport” to aid the evacuation of Americans and those who worked with U.S. Forces, and their families, who wished to leave Afghanistan.