Taliban insurgents have entered Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul on Sunday and according to various news agencies, President Ashraf Ghani has left the city for Tajikistan, capping the militants’ lightning push for power.
Amid panic and concerns, various nations are involved in hurried evacuations of their citizens from Afghanistan.
India has put in place contingency plans to evacuate hundreds of its officials and citizens from Kabul, which has been gripped by fear and panic. Plans have already been finalised in case they require emergency evacuation, a PTI report said.
An Air India flight from Delhi hovered over the Kabul airport for about an hour on Sunday waiting for the air traffic control permission before it could finally land with 40 passengers on board, while the corresponding return flight left the Afghanistan capital hours later with 129 passengers, the report said quoting officials.
According to officials of Air India, there is no plan yet to cancel the Delhi-Kabul-Delhi flight and that it is scheduled to operate on Monday too. However, they said, the airline is monitoring the situation closely and it will take appropriate action as and when required. Currently, only Air India is operating flights between India and Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Britain’s foreign minister Dominic Raab on Sunday said he was deeply concerned about the future of Afghanistan and called on the Taliban insurgents to end violence as they entered the capital city Kabul.
“Shared my deep concerns about the future for Afghanistan with FM Qureshi. Agreed it is critical that the international community is united in telling the Taliban that the violence must end and human rights must be protected,” Raab wrote on Twitter, referring to Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
Britain‘s ambassador to Afghanistan is to be airlifted out of the country by Monday evening amid fears that the Taliban could seize the airport imminently, news agency AP reported. The Foreign Office had intended for Laurie Bristow and a small team of officials to remain at the airport with other international diplomats. But the Sunday Telegraph reported that their departure had been brought forward.
Pakistan has closed the Torkham border point with Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the Afghan border facility, the interior minister said Sunday. Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said the decision to close the Torkhan border was taken due to due to an “extraordinary situation” on the other side. Ahmed told the local Geo television that the border was closed when Afghan police surrendered to the Taliban. Ahmed said the Chaman border point with Afghanistan remains open.
Pakistan evacuated 329 passengers from Kabul in a special flight of Pakistan’s national airline PIA. Another carrying 170 people will arrive Islamabad later today. A spokesman for the airline said Saturday that the airline will operate three flights tomorrow to transport Pakistanis and other nationalities looking to leave Kabul. PIA and other commercial flights from Kabul were heavily delayed Sunday due to a US military transport plane that blocked the runway, AP reported quoting the airline.
According to news agency Reuters, Russia is ready to cooperate with Afghanistan’s interim government, the Interfax news agency reported on Sunday, citing a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Kabul. The spokesman for the embassy, which earlier said there was no immediate need to evacuate the Afghan capital, also said Russia was taking part in political contacts in Afghanistan, according to Interfax.
Meanwhile, RIA state news agency quoted the Russian foreign ministry as saying that Moscow does not yet recognise the Taliban insurgents as Afghanistan’s new lawful authority. The ministry also told RIA that Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani was unlikely to head to Russia after leaving his country.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that embassy staff in Kabul are leaving the facility and moving to the airport. US diplomats were being ferried by helicopters to the city’s airport, where US troops are being flown in to provide security amid an exodus of Americans and their local allies and other foreigners in the face of the militants’ lightening advance. Sources told Reuters that most US staff would be evacuated from Kabul in the coming day or two.
The NATO, meanwhile, said it was “helping to maintain operations at Kabul airport to keep Afghanistan connected with the world.” Low-cost carrier FlyDubai said it would temporarily suspend flights to Kabul. It turned around a flight to the capital Sunday, as did Emirates. Emirates said an “unforeseen temporary closure of the runway” stopped it from landing, news agency AP reported.
Canada has suspended diplomatic operations in Afghanistan and Canadian personnel are on their way back to Canada. Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said in a statement the decision to suspend operations is temporary and the embassy will reopen if the security situation allows staff to be safe. Some 40,000 Canadian troops were deployed in Afghanistan over 13 years as part of the NATO mission before pulling out in 2014. More than 150 Canadian soldiers died during the Afghanistan mission.
Turkey‘s president said his country will work for stability in Afghanistan along with Pakistan, in order to stem a growing migration wave amid the Taliban’s countrywide offensive. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Afghans were increasingly attempting to migrate to Turkey via Iran, urging an international effort to bring stability to the country and prevent mass migration.
Spain‘s defense ministry said it has not yet begun evacuating Spanish nationals and Afghan staff, including translators who are expected to be flown out alongside its citizens, but was speeding up its plans. In an emailed statement, AP reported, it said that “the evacuation plan for Afghanistan is being accelerated to the maximum,” adding that “details are finalised on logistics and the people who will be evacuated” but they cannot give more details for security reasons.
Germany is sending military transport planes to Kabul to begin the evacuation of its embassy staff on Monday. The German news agency dpa reported Sunday that the mission will include the evacuation of local Afghan staff working for the German embassy. A German official, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorised to be quoted, told AP that paratroopers will secure the operation. Military planes are expected to ferry evacuees from Kabul to a base in Central Asia, from where charter planes will bring them to Germany.
In case of Italy, most personnel at the Italian Embassy in Kabul are being transferred to the Kabul airport in preparation for evacuation. The move affects some 50 Italian staffers and 30 Afghan employees and their families, along with Carabinieri paramilitary police protecting the embassy. The Foreign Ministry confirmed that staff were being transferred to the airport, as other nations were in the process of doing, but could not give numbers or timing. Italy’s defense minister has said that 228 Afghans and their families have already been transferred to Italy, calling it a “moral duty” to protect those who had worked with Italy and who would face reprisals by the Taliban. The Italian agency LaPresse reported a flight carrying Italian embassy staff would depart Kabul Sunday evening.
Uzbekistan‘s Foreign Ministry reported that 84 Afghan servicemen crossed the border into Uzbekistan and asked for assistance. Uzbek guards detained the group of Afghan military when they crossed the border. The group included three wounded soldiers who needed medical help, the ministry said. The men were offered food and temporary accommodation in Uzbekistan, and the ministry was in touch with Afghan officials regarding the return of the soldiers to their home country.
Albania‘s prime minister says his country will temporarily shelter hundreds of Afghans who worked with the Western peacekeeping military forces and are now threatened by the Taliban. On his Facebook page, Edi Rama said the US. government had asked Albania to serve as a “transit place for a certain number of Afghan political emigrants who have the United States as their final destination. No doubt we shall not say no,” he said. He added that the Albanian government has also responded positively to requests from two US NGOs to shelter hundreds of Afghan intellectuals and women activists who have been threatened with execution by the Taliban.
Czech Republic leaders have approved a plan to evacuate Afghan staffers at the Czech embassy in Kabul. The Czechs already had evacuated their own diplomats from the embassy and transported them to Kabul’s international airport. Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek said Afghan staffers are at risk of “death and torture” if they stay, adding, “We simply can’t allow that to happen.” The evacuation flights should take place in next days.
Sweden‘s embassy personnel in Kabul will leave immediately and the evacuation is expected to be completed on Monday, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said on Sunday. “All deployed staff will be out by tomorrow. The Swedish Migration Agency is working to bring home the locally employed staff,” Linde told a news conference.
(With inputs from AP, Reuters and PTI)