FRANKFURT (REUTERS) - Afghans who arrived in Germany on Wednesday (Aug 18) described chaotic and terrifying scenes at Kabul airport before they were evacuated and said they feared for the lives of loved ones left behind.
Speaking shortly after landing in Frankfurt on a flight from Tashkent, men, women and children said they were part of a lucky few evacuated by Nato soldiers after the country fell to the Taleban with astonishing speed.
"We had to force our way through and my little son fell over and we were scared but we made it," said a woman, speaking in German.
"Then an American guy showed goodwill and realised we were totally exhausted. He took the passports and said I need to check if this is authentic. Then he said 'all good, you may go in'. Others behind cried and lay on the ground. It was scary."
She, her two sons and husband, were on the first of several flights organised by Germany to rescue Afghans who are at risk from Taleban insurgents because they had worked for Nato armies or western-funded charitable organisations.
A veiled woman wiped away tears, another spoke on her mobile phone and men sobbed as they embraced family members and German friends who had come to welcome them.
None of the few who spoke to reporters mentioned their names or what they had done in Afghanistan, where many fear retaliation against family members they may never see again.
"Everyone wants out," said the woman's husband, also speaking in German. "Every day is worse than the day before. We saved ourselves but we couldn't rescue our families."
Chancellor Angela Merkel told a meeting of her Christian Democrats on Monday that Germany may need to grant asylum to some 10,000 Afghans who worked with the German army and development agencies as well as human rights activists and lawyers.
Opposition parties in Germany have criticised the government for failing to predict the fall of Kabul to the Taleban and for what they say is a failed military adventure that cost billions of euros and the lives of 59 German soldiers.
The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has urged the government to institute a moratorium on asylum applications and look after Afghan civilians in neighbouring countries like Pakistan.
As the Taleban started their advance towards Kabul, Germany had to suspend a policy of repatriating Afghans whose asylum applications are rejected, prompting a debate about migration before national elections on Sept 26.
A poll by Civey for the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper showed almost two thirds of Germans fear events in Afghanistan could lead to a large number of people fleeing to Germany in a repeat of the 2015 migrant crisis.
The Afghans who Germany is airlifting to safety will join some 170,000 compatriots who have applied for asylum since 2015.
Zia Moballegh fled Afghanistan four years ago and settled with his family in Berlin, where on Tuesday they watched news footage of Taleban leaders vowing at a news conference in Kabul to grant women rights under Islamic religious law known as syariah.
"I think it is just a form of, I don't know, they are trying to fool us, like they are trying to conform to modernity, but I don't trust them," said his daughter Aida.
At Frankfurt airport, a young Afghan man wearing a red and white jacket spoke of his joy to be in Germany.
"The anxiety was huge because my whole family is still there," he said. "It wasn't easy to leave them behind and come here. A part of me is still there. I'm very emotional but otherwise I'm well, thank God."
A little girl standing with her parents said in German: "When the soldiers opened fire it wasn't good because everyone got scared and started screaming."
At his Berlin flat, Moballegh said the Taleban's takeover after 20 years of attempts to reform and rebuild sets Afghanistan back to square zero.
"So you ask me, how do I feel? Really very sad, very frustrated and actually I really lost my hope," he said.