At the very last moment – after the German paratroopers had already left the Kabul airport, the Americans had cleared their last plane for takeoff, and everyone was fearful that another suicide attack was imminent – a final group of evacuees almost failed to get out because two numbers of a license plate had been written down incorrectly.
The more than 100 Afghans in question had worked for Germany and for an American company and were on the list for an emergency evacuation to Germany. All the names had been approved and a way had even been found to print all the documents sent from Berlin. Then, a week-and-a-half ago, on Saturday evening, the buses were finally lined up at the final checkpoint at the south gate of the airport. With bureaucratic zeal, the Taliban began checking every single detail relating to the passengers, along with the bus driver’s name. But they hit a snag: Someone had reversed a 5 and a 6 when writing down the license plate number of one of the buses. The organizers of the evacuation noticed it themselves and redistributed the passengers of that bus to the others.