Germany to take in more of its Afghan staff as NATO mission winds down

NATO soldiers inspect near the site of an attack in Kabul
NATO soldiers inspect near the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail/File Photo

BERLIN, June 18 (Reuters) - Germany said on Friday it was ready to take in more local staff who have been working for its military in Afghanistan as NATO's mission there winds down.

The decision follows calls for Berlin to accelerate the process by which hundreds of Afghans who worked for the German military can resettle in Germany because of fears for their security if they stay in Afghanistan.

Abandoning a plan to admit only Afghans who had been employed by Germany for the past two years, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said all local staff who are at risk and have worked for the German military or security forces since 2013 will now be eligible to come to Germany.

"The two-year deadline has been lifted," he said.

Seehofer cited new findings on the security situation in Afghanistan for the decision. He said his ministry would not pay for any flights of former Afghan staff to Germany.

NATO is leaving behind tens of thousands of Afghans who worked as civilian employees for foreign militaries as it winds down a mission that began after the Taliban were forced from power following the 9/11 attacks on the United States in 2001.

At the start of June, the Taliban assured those Afghans of their safety, but few felt reassured.

According to a report by Spiegel news magazine, Germany so far has granted approval to around 400 former Afghan employees and their close families to come to Germany.

In April, the German forces still employed about 300 Afghans as interpreters and in other jobs, the defence ministry said.

Since 2013, Germany has admitted nearly 800 Afghans at risk in their own country after working for the foreign military, as well as about 2,500 family members.

Reporting by Alexander Ratz, Writing by Sabine Siebold, Editing by Timothy Heritage

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