8th Dec 2023

Kabul airport attacked, as Western evacuation wraps up

  • EU countries and the UK are wrapping up evacuation operations in Kabul (Photo: Vladimir Varfolomeev)
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Two suicide bombers and gunmen attacked Kabul airport on Thursday (26 August), killing over 100 Afghans flocking to the airport and waiting to be evacuated from the capital, as well as least a dozen US servicemen.

The attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State terrorist group and condemned by the Taliban, marked a bloody ending to the US and its allies ending their evacuation operations in the Afghan capital for those fleeing the Taliban takeover.

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EU countries and the UK have been wrapping up their operations on Thursday and Friday. The EU has managed to evacuate over 400 members of its local staff, and their families, who were working for the EU delegation in Kabul.

In the meantime, the Taliban have told Germany that Afghans with legal documents will be able to leave the country on commercial flights after the 31 August deadline for the US troop withdrawal, Reuters reported.

As the evacuation ends, EU member states are turning their attention on how to deal with the possible arrival of Afghan asylum seekers to Europe.

EU home affairs ministers will hold an extraordinary meeting next Tuesday (31 August) to discuss how the bloc should handle the asylum seekers in the absence of a reformed common asylum policy, which has been stuck for six years in the EU.

European Council president Charles Michel was on the phone on Thursday with Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan, the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and the presidents of Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan.

The EU is pinning its hopes on countries in the region to take in the bulk of migrants from Afghanistan.

In another sign that the EU's attitude towards asylum seekers has hardened since the 2015 arrival of over 1 million migrants, EU commissioner for home affairs Ylva Johansson said the bloc should ramp up support for neighbouring countries, the UN refugee agency, and and displaced people within Afghanistan.

"We have learned the lesson from 2015 so that we will not see a new migration crisis in the European Union," she told Euronews.

She added that "a lot" of EU countries were ready to step up resettlement of Afghan asylum seekers, but did not name them.

Austria, Slovenia, and Hungary have already said they would not take in asylum seekers.

Meanwhile, EU countries are bolstering their presence at the bloc's external borders.

After Greece said it had built a 40km wall on its border with Turkey, Bulgaria announced on Thursday that it will step up its border protection with Greece and Turkey by deploying between 400 and 700 soldiers to the frontier.

"The pressure on the Bulgarian border is increasing, which requires the government to act, and it is doing just that," defence Minister Georgi Panayotov was quoted as saying by Radio Free Europe.

The interior ministry said there was "increased migratory pressure" in recent weeks on the border with Turkey and Greece.

Von der Leyen offers funding for resettling Afghans

EU Commission chief said the EU executive was ready to provide funding for EU countries that helped resettle refugees and planned to raise the resettlement issue at a G7 meeting on Tuesday

US will not delay Kabul pull-out, Biden tells Western allies

Western allies hope that the leverage of not recognising the Taliban, which would mean withholding funds, would be enough to tame the extremist group that took over Afghanistan after 20 years of Nato and US involvement.

Afghans' plight reignites migration fears in Europe

Several EU member states are worried that the Taliban takeover would trigger a replay of the 2015-16 migration crisis when the bloc has seen the arrival of over one million asylum seekers in a matter of months.


Tense EU-China summit showdown unlikely to bear fruit

EU leaders will meet their Chinese counterparts in Beijing for the first face-to-face summit since 2019. Their agenda includes trade imbalances, economic security, Ukraine and human rights — what can be expected by the end of 48 hours of talks?

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