Germany evacuated just seven people from Kabul on its first military aircraft out of Afghanistan, the Foreign Ministry has confirmed.
Despite landing a large A-400M transport aircraft at Kabul’s airport, only a few people were able to leave on board due to “chaotic circumstances at the airport”.
But Germany says the aircraft did bring German soldiers to Afghanistan to assist with the evacuation process.
Like other European countries, Germany has rushed to evacuate diplomats, citizens, and Afghan helpers following Kabul’s fall to the Taliban.
An A-400M transport aircraft, which can carry up to 150 people, landed in the military portion of the airport on Monday night.
But it departed swiftly with only seven people on board, as other Germans could not get to the airport under military protection, the foreign ministry said.
“We can confirm that seven people were evacuated last night on a flight from Kabul,” a Federal Foreign Office spokesperson said in a statement.
“Due to the chaotic circumstances at the airport and regular exchanges of fire at the access point, it was not guaranteed last night that further German nationals and other persons to be evacuated would be allowed access to the airport at all without military protection.”
The foreign ministry added that the aircraft had to take off quickly due to an “extremely dangerous situation” on the airport’s access points.
At Kabul airport runways were overrun with people clamouring to escape the country on Sunday, causing civilian and military flights to be suspended.
“It would have been an unacceptable risk to life and limb for the people on the ground to call on those to be evacuated to go to the airport before landing permission was granted and before access was secured by Grman military forces,” the spokesperson said.
“We are working under high pressure to make this possible for the first evacuation groups in the course of the next few hours.”
The small number of those evacuated on the first German plane has drawn strong criticism online.
Hasnain Kazim, a prominent journalist and writer said on Twitter that Germany’s bureaucracy was putting the lives of many Afghans in danger.
Meanwhile, Green MP Tobias Lindner said German authorities should use full seating capacity in future evacuation flights to save as many Afghans as possible.
“The A-400M landed in Kabul at great risk. It doesn’t fit at all to take only 7 people.,” he said on Twitter.
“Not a single seat should be left empty on such flights – also because no one knows how long this airlift can be maintained,” he added.
According to the DPA news agency, the military aircraft had circled for five hours over Kabul airport before landing on Monday, with a limited amount of fuel left.
Two more planes are now in the region to continue evacuating personnel to Tashkent, the capital of neighbouring Uzbekistan.
France meanwhile, evacuated several dozen people from Kabul in a military plane early on Tuesday, landing at an airbase in Abu Dhabi. The French military did not say whether there were Afghan or other citizens on board the flight.