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1st Mar 2024

EU countries evacuate Kabul amid chaos, panic

  • Western countries are evacuating as Kabul airport remains the only way out of now Taliban-controlled Afghanistan (Photo: defense.gov)

European countries scrambled to evacuate their citizens and Afghan staff from Kabul on Sunday and Monday (16 August) as US troops kept the Afghan capital's airport open - the only way out of the country that has been taken over by Taliban extremists in lightning speed.

Scores of fearful Afghan families rushed to the airport on Sunday evening in the hope of catching a flight out as the Taliban entered the city, while the country's president Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

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On Monday morning, US troops fired into the air on the airport tarmac in an effort to control the crowd that was storming planes in the hope of getting out. Reportedly three people were killed at the airport.

Around 6,000 US troops have been transported back to Afghanistan to secure the way out via the Hamid Karzai International Airport.

The EU has also been trying to find a solution for its Afghan staff facing possible reprisals. The EU cannot give out visas, so it was seeking to convince its 27 member states to offer the Afghan staff and helpers visas.

"The matter is extremely urgent, we take it very seriously and continue to work hard, together with EU member states, on implementing rapid solutions for them and ensuring their safety," an EU spokesman was quoted as saying by AFP.

Germany, France, and the Netherlands were among countries moving diplomatic staff to the airport ahead of evacuations and to help their own nationals and Afghans to find a way out. Paris has also set up a mission at the airport.

Britain, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, and Spain have announced the evacuation of embassy personnel.

Denmark, Norway, and Finland are temporarily shutting their Kabul embassies.

Czech prime minister Andrej Babiš said on Sunday that a plane carrying 46 Czechs and local colleagues, and their families, had left Kabul and was headed for Prague.

Spain was planning to send two planes to Dubai on Monday as part of evacuating embassy staff and Afghan workers and their families, as well as EU personnel.

"We will support the EU and its foreign service for an orderly departure of European and local personnel. We will not leave anyone behind," said Spanish foreign minister José Manuel Albares.

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba also said Kyiv was helping EU countries with evacuations.

Albania and Kosovo both said Sunday they had accepted a request from Washington to temporarily bring in Afghan refugees, Reuters reported.

While the US has shut down its embassy, lowering its flag at the diplomatic mission, Russia said it did not plan to evacuate its embassy in Kabul.

EU on mute

For their part, top EU officials remained silent, as the Taliban took full control of the country after 20 years of Nato and Western presence.

European Council president Charles Michel tweeted that he was in close contact with Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign policy chief.

"Security of EU citizens, staff and their families is priority in short term," he added. "Equally clear that many lessons will need to be drawn," he said without any details.

EU ambassadors dealing with foreign and security issues will hold a video conference on Monday afternoon on the developments.

Around 60 countries issued a statement on Sunday calling for "all parties to respect and facilitate, the safe and orderly departure of foreign nationals and Afghans who wish to leave the country."

The statement was signed by 25 EU countries, except for Hungary and Bulgaria.

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