How the scramble to leave Afghanistan is unfolding

Thousands of US soldiers are at Kabul's airport, the Pentagon planning to ramp up flights of its huge C-17 transport jets to as many as two dozen a day.

Published: 18th August 2021 05:08 PM  |   Last Updated: 18th August 2021 05:08 PM   |  A+A-

People sit in a German Bundeswehr airplane at the airport in Kabul

People sit in a German Bundeswehr airplane at the airport in Kabul. (Photo | AP)


KABUL: With the Taliban largely in control of Afghanistan, foreign nations are scrambling to get their citizens and Afghans who worked with them out of the country.

Here is a round-up of the latest developments:

- US banks on 'safe passage' -
The United States is looking to get thousands of its citizens out of the country before an August 31 deadline, saying the Taliban has guaranteed them safe passage.

So far, the US has taken out roughly 3,200 people on 13 flights but around 11,000 US nationals remain.

Thousands of US soldiers are at Kabul's airport, the Pentagon planning to ramp up flights of its huge C-17 transport jets to as many as two dozen a day.

State Department spokesman Ned Price hinted that the country might keep some diplomatic staff in the country after August 31.

"If it is safe and responsible for us to potentially stay longer, that is something we may be able to look at," Price said.

- Dutch blocked -
The first Dutch evacuation flight reportedly left Kabul without a single Dutch national on board after passengers were blocked by US troops. 

"The Americans were guarding the gate. I showed my passport and said I was Dutch," a man told Dutch media outlet NOS.

"After saying three times that I was Dutch, he told me to keep my distance otherwise he would shoot. I decided to leave. I didn't want to risk being shot."

Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag said the Americans gave the plane 30 minutes on the tarmac before ordering it to leave, and pleaded for the US to "give us more time". 

Kaag is reportedly in talks with the Americans to avoid a repeat of the incident.

- French embassy emptied -
Most people who had sought refuge in the French embassy in Kabul have now been taken out of the country, with almost 200 Afghan nationals among those airlifted out overnight on Tuesday.

"Nearly 200 Afghans who worked for France or who are under threat have just been evacuated from Kabul, as well as French and foreign nationals," President Emmanuel Macron said in a tweet, adding that operations would continue. 

Those taken out overnight included 25 French nationals and 184 Afghans "from civil society in need of protection".

- European exodus -
Other European nations were scrambling to follow suit.

Italy's defence ministry said seven planes were working around the clock to take out Afghans who had worked with them, the first flight carrying 85 people due to land later in Rome.

The first Spanish plane was on its way to Kabul too, with two more to follow, according to Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

Fourteen Norwegians arrived home safely on Wednesday, Greece said a single national had been evacuated, Sweden has now removed all its embassy staff and Austria and Romania have announced similar plans.

However, Ireland said it was having to work with other nations to get 33 citizens out of the country.

"We're relying on the US in particular to secure safe passage through Kabul airport," said foreign minister Simon Coveney.

- India's Taliban escort -
India's final diplomats took a rocky road to the exit -- they eventually asked the Taliban for an armed escort to the airport, taking five hours to make the five-kilometre (three-mile) journey from the embassy.

India had been a staunch ally of the Afghan government, so nerves were jangling among the 150 nationals and diplomats gathered at the now-closed mission.

But as the first of nearly two dozen vehicles drove out of the embassy late on Monday, some of the heavily armed Taliban fighters waved and smiled at the passengers.

One guided them towards the street leading out of the city's green zone and on the main road to the airport. The escort managed to clear crowds from the roads and get the convoy to the airport.

"I'm so happy to be back," Shirin Pathare, an Air India employee flown out of Kabul, told AFP later, stepping off the plane in New Delhi. "India is paradise."


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