Brig.-Gen. Jens Arlt, who led the German army’s evacuation mission from Afghanistan, was awarded one of Germany’s highest state honours on Friday.
President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, presented the Order of Merit to the commander of Airborne Brigade 1 at his residence at Bellevue Palace in Berlin, saying that Arlt represented the best of the Bundeswehr.
At the same time, he said there were many painful questions about the 20-year mission by Western powers in Afghanistan.
The chaotic evacuation by the U.S., Germany and other militaries from Kabul airport followed the lightning takeover of the country by the Taliban.
Many people died around the airport, including dozens in a suicide bomb attack outside the airport compound.
Before the ceremony, Steinmeier spoke to Arlt and soldiers involved in the mission.
He said more than 5,300 people from 45 countries had been brought to safety by German forces via the airlift that the Bundeswehr had set up between Kabul and Tashkent in August under Arlt’s leadership.
Arlt, in his part said in a short remark that the evacuation was a team effort and that he was receiving the honour in the name of all those he had led.
“It was an honour for me to lead this team of people” he said.