Their departure delayed because of the chaos at the Kabul airport and the deteriorating situation in the city which fell to the Taliban last Sunday, two Indian evacuation flights flew out around 350 people Saturday. The flights, sources said, are expected to land in India in the early hours of Sunday.
Sources said the departures were delayed owing to “logistics issues” at Kabul airport — it is still under the control of US forces. There is chaos outside the airport with the Taliban controlling the access points.
The first two evacuation flights, operated with IAF C-17 aircraft, flew out around 200 people — over 40 last Monday, and around 150 people, including Indian diplomats, officials, security personnel and some stranded Indian nationals, Tuesday. These missions were accomplished with US support.
The chaos outside Kabul airport signals the logistics challenge that evacuation flights face. US troops still control the airport, and the pull-out window is open. But the Taliban control access points.
Following the two evacuation flights, the Ministry of External Affairs said the focus now will be to ensure the safe return of all Indian nationals from Kabul.
The MEA said the immediate priority for the government is to obtain accurate information about all Indian nationals currently in Afghanistan. It has also requested Indians and their employers to urgently share details with the special Afghanistan cell.
According to a rough estimate, the number of Indians stranded in Afghanistan may be around 400 and India is looking at ways to evacuate them by coordinating with the US and other friendly countries.
Amid the scramble to leave the city, Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who negotiated the deal with the US in Doha, reached Kabul Saturday for talks with other leaders to hammer out the contours of a ruling council or government.
Afghan officials familiar with the talks held so far in Kabul say the Taliban have said they will not make any announcement on their government until the August 31 deadline for the US troop withdrawal runs out.
Abdullah Abdullah, a senior official in the ousted government, tweeted that he and former President Hamid Karzai have met Taliban’s acting governor for Kabul who “assured us that he would do everything possible for the security of the people” of the city.
In a new security warning Saturday, the US embassy advised citizens not to travel to the Kabul airport without “individual instructions from a US government representative,” citing potential security threats outside its gates.
Evacuation flights have continued although some outgoing flights have been far from full because of the airport chaos, Taliban checkpoints and bureaucratic challenges.
So far, 13 countries have agreed to host at-risk Afghans at least temporarily, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. Another 12 have agreed to serve as transit points for evacuees.