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Chancellor Angela Merkel said there would be between 10,000 and 40,000 people in Afghanistan who worked for development agencies and could be evacuated to Germany if they wished to leave.

Speaking at a press conference with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, the German leader set out her country’s position after the end of the international evacuation process that foreign governments have launched in earnest from the airport in Kabul on August 15.

Merkel said her government is now focusing on evacuating local staff who wish to flee Afghanistan, believing there are “More like 10 to 40,000 people” who have the right to travel to Germany if they want to leave their country. The staff remained stationed in Afghanistan after serving in development and aid organizations.

The German Chancellor did not estimate how many individuals within this group might actually seek refuge in her country, saying that “nobody makes the decision to leave their house lightly”, but indicated that his government would be ready to help them.

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Merkel’s comments came after the last US troops left Kabul airport late Monday evening, ending the international airlift underway since mid-August and handing control of the transportation hub to the Taliban. Prior to the departure of foreign troops, the United States and its Western allies helped airlift more than 100,000 people to safety, including their own citizens and Afghans seeking refuge for fear of reprisal.

Taliban militants celebrated in triumph on the runway at Kabul airport on Tuesday, claiming to have succeeded in defeating US forces, insurgent group spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid congratulating Afghanistan and adding that “This victory belongs to all of us.

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