Afghanistan: What are European countries doing?
Updated 01:53, 17-Aug-2021
Patrick Rhys Atack


The European Union has called an emergency meeting of its foreign ministers after the Taliban announced it had seized control of Afghanistan, claiming it had occupied all government buildings in the capital Kabul.

European nations are among those attempting to evacuate diplomats and others, but thousands of Afghans have flooded into Hamid Karzai International Airport hoping to find a way out, too, and the chaos has forced all planes to be grounded until the airfield can be cleared. 

EU foreign ministers will hold emergency talks during a video conference on Tuesday as foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted: "Afghanistan stands at a crossroads. Security and wellbeing of its citizens, as well as international security, are at play."

Diplomats for the bloc have told AFP that there are up to 600 Afghan workers and their families at the EU mission in Kabul and are pleading with member nations to grant them visas.


At least 600 UK troops have landed in Kabul. /Reuters/RAF/UK Defence Ministry

At least 600 UK troops have landed in Kabul. /Reuters/RAF/UK Defence Ministry


After initially relying on U.S.-led evacuation flights, Germany has sent two military aircraft to Kabul's airport to aid the evacuation of German and European citizens.

Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the crisis Monday evening and said she was working closely with France's President Emmanuel Macron to coordinate the two nations' responses.

Officials say they are intent on evacuating support staff as well as diplomatic personnel. Figures given by the Chancellory suggested at least 1,500 local staff are now in Germany and hundreds of others are in third countries while their paperwork is being processed.

A special session of parliament will be held on Wednesday to adopt policies to address the crisis. Earlier in the day, Chancellor Merkel suggested the U.S. was partly to blame for the situation because of decisions based on "domestic political reasons," which forced Nato members to also withdraw from Afghanistan. The decision was "ultimately made by the Americans," she reportedly told colleagues.

"We have always said, if the Americans stay, we will also stay," she said, according to participants at the meeting. "For the many who have built on the progress and freedom – especially women – these are bitter events," Merkel added. 



Russia's embassy in Afghanistan said 100 staff would be evacuated "in order not to create too big a presence" but Russia would maintain a diplomatic presence in the country. 

Ambassador Dmitry Zhirnov will meet the Taliban on Tuesday to discuss diplomatic relations. It has been reported the Taliban has built a protective perimeter around the Russian embassy in Kabul already.

The embassy confirmed the extremely fast takeover of the country was "somewhat unexpected." Zamir Kabulov, a foreign ministry official, said: "Afghan forces dropped everything at the first shot."


The UK

UK troops have arrived in Kabul to help evacuations. Approximately 600 soldiers are in Kabul airport, hoping to get Britons and Afghans who worked with the UK since 2001 to safety. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has recalled parliament from its summer recess and on Wednesday it will discuss the situation. 

UK Defense Minister Ben Wallace broke down during a broadcast interview on Monday, as the former army officer admitted "some won't get back" to the UK. He went on to say that sending British forces back to Afghanistan on a long-term basis was "not on the cards."

His emotional reaction was shared by parents of soldiers killed in the 20-year conflict. 

"Whether people's lives were lost through a war that wasn't winnable, I think they were," said Graham Knight, father of 25-year-old Sergeant Ben Knight who was killed when his aircraft exploded in Afghanistan in 2006, told the PA news agency in the UK. 





France's President Emmanuel Macron has convened his security council and is expected to make a televised address to the French people on Monday evening. 

In Kabul, the French embassy has been moved to the airport, but the current state of French evacuations is not known. France's ambassador was pictured escaping the capital in a military helicopter on Monday. 

France has been warning its citizens of the Taliban's dangerous approach since April and organized flights out as early as July. 

In France, the government reversed a decision to continue deporting Afghan asylum-seekers. 



Italy decided to urgently evacuate its diplomats and nationals as well as its Afghan employees, after sending a military aircraft to Kabul on Sunday.

"Faced with the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, the Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini asked diplomatic staff to begin emergency evacuation of the embassy in Kabul and Italian nationals," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

"At the same time, he decided to speed up the transfer to Italy of Afghan collaborators," it said.

At least 70 have been repatriated and their plane is due to land in Rome on Monday. Italy had one of the largest contingents of European nationals in Afghanistan in recent years, 723 soldiers were wounded and 53 lost their lives during the conflict. 



Finland said it would close its embassy in Kabul immediately and until further notice as a result of the security situation. "Diplomatic personnel are being evacuated from the country," the foreign ministry said in a statement.


Afghan civilians attempt to climb the walls of Hamid Karzai International Airport to escape Kabul. /Reuters/stringer

Afghan civilians attempt to climb the walls of Hamid Karzai International Airport to escape Kabul. /Reuters/stringer



The first Czech evacuation flight has returned to Prague. Prime Minister Andrej Babis said 46 people were onboard Monday's flight, including Czech nationals, the Afghan staff at the Czech embassy and Afghan interpreters who helped the Czech armed forces during Nato missions. 


The search for visas

Some nations have agreed to extended the number of visas available for Afghans who worked with the Nato alliance.  Poland's government in Warsaw has issued 45 humanitarian visas and the Republic of Ireland has granted visa waivers for the same number. Ireland said a further 150 refugees would be accepted. 

"We'll prioritize people working with human rights organizations, with the media there, women and girls in particular," Ireland's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said. 


China calls on Taliban to bring 'enduring peace' to Afghanistan

China has maintained diplomatic links with the Taliban since the U.S. announced its plans to withdraw troops by the end of August and in the wake of events over the weekend, the Foreign Ministry reiterated hopes for continued "friendly and cooperative" relations with Afghanistan.

A statement read out by Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying on Monday confirmed the embassy was "operating as normal," although most Chinese nationals have returned to China with only a handful staying on voluntarily. The embassy told those remaining to "pay close attention to the security situation" and stay indoors.

China's ambassador to Afghanistan Wang Yu said: "The current chaos in Afghanistan is the result of the failure of the U.S. policy towards Afghanistan and the consequence of the U.S.'s irresponsible withdrawal of its troops. 

"The Chinese embassy will continue to pay close attention to the development of the situation, respect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and will not interfere in Afghanistan's internal affairs." 

Wang went on to urge the Taliban to ensure the "peaceful development" of the political infrastructure is a top priority and that it should be inclusive and in line with international expectations.

Video editor: Pedro Duarte

Source(s): Reuters ,AFP

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