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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

As Kabul falls, most countries say first focus evacuation; China, Pak make overtures to Taliban

MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that the situation in Kabul has "deteriorated significantly" in the last few days and efforts are on to facilitate the return of those who want to leave Afghanistan

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: August 16, 2021 9:53:50 pm
AfghanistanA Taliban fighter sits on the back of a vehicle with a machine gun in front of the main gate leading to the Afghan presidential palace, in Kabul (AP)

As the crisis in Afghanistan accelerated with Kabul having fallen to Taliban, most countries said their primary focus at the moment is on evacuating their citizens who are stuck in the war-torn country.

In its first reaction to the unfolding developments in Afghanistan, India on Monday said it is constantly monitoring the situation and will take all steps to ensure the safety and security of Indian nationals as well as its interests in that country.

MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that the situation in Kabul has “deteriorated significantly” in the last few days and efforts are on to facilitate the return of those who want to leave Afghanistan, PTI reported.

“We’ve been issuing periodic advisories for the safety and security of Indian nationals, including calling for their immediate return to India,” he said during a media briefing. “We are in touch with representatives of Afghan Sikh, Hindu communities…will facilitate those who want to leave Afghanistan” he said.

Britain’s Defense Ministry has said that UK troops are in Kabul now to help with the evacuation of the remaining Britons there.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, after chairing a Cabinet emergency committee meeting Sunday, had said that the priority is to get out British nationals, as well as Afghans who helped U.K. forces in Afghanistan over the past 20 years, “as fast as we can”.

“The ambassador is working round the clock, has been there in the airport to help process the applications. We certainly have the means at the moment to get them out … It’s just a question of making sure that they’re able to do it over the next few days,” he told Sky News.

The UK Parliament, currently on its summer recess, has been recalled for a day on Wednesday to debate the British government’s response to the crisis in Afghanistan after the Taliban overthrew the Western-backed government and seized control of Kabul.

According to PTI, the Speaker of the House of Commons granted a request from the government to recall the House of Commons at 9.30 am on Wednesday, August 18, in relation to the situation in Afghanistan. Prime Minister Boris Johnson convened another emergency Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms (COBRA) meeting on Monday to take stock of the crisis in the region.

France is also relocating its embassy in Kabul to the airport to evacuate all citizens still in Afghanistan, initially transferring them to Abu Dhabi.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drain said in a statement Sunday that military reinforcements and aircraft would deploy in the hours ahead to the United Arab Emirates, “so that the first evacuations toward Abu Dhabi can start.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that Bundeswehr planes are being deployed to help with evacuation efforts in Kabul, DW reported.

In a brief statement to reporters on Sunday evening, Maas said those who are being evacuated will be brought to a neighboring country and then will use civilian passenger planes to fly them back to Germany.

‘Speed with which cities fell to Taliban unexpected’

At a time when the American strategy in Afghanistan has come under fire from several quarters, US National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday that Afghanistan fell faster than the administration expected, and blamed the government’s fall on the Afghans themselves.

“It is certainly the case that the speed with which cities fell was much greater than anyone anticipated,” Sullivan said Monday on NBC’s “Today”.

But he said the U.S. ultimately could not give Afghan security forces the “will” to fight to defend their fledgling democracy from the Taliban.

“At the end of the day, despite the fact that we spent 20 years and tens of billions of dollars to give the best equipment, the best training and the best capacity to the Afghan security forces, we could not give them the will and they ultimately decided that they would not fight for Kabul and they would not fight for the country,” Sullivan said.

More than 60 nations released a joint statement Sunday night citing what they call “the deteriorating security situation” in Afghanistan. The statement, which was distributed to U.S. media by the State Department, says that those in power and authority across the country “bear responsibility — and accountability — for the protection of human life and property, and for the immediate restoration of security and civil order.”

The statement concludes: “The Afghan people deserve to live in safety, security and dignity. We in the international community stand ready to assist them.”

UK’s policy of withdrawing its remaining troops from Afghanistan after Biden announced in April that the US was leaving by September, has also not escaped criticism. Conservative Tom Tugendhat, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said the pullout from Afghanistan was Britain’s worst foreign policy disaster since the UK’s failed invasion of Egypt in 1956.

Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, has urged the government to explain what it planned to do to avert a looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and prevent it from again becoming a base for international terrorism, the AP reported.

Contrary voices

Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, said Monday that China is ready to develop “friendly and cooperative” relations with Afghanistan and it “respects the wishes and choices of the Afghan people.”

Though Hua did not comment on whether Beijing would explicitly recognize the Taliban government, she said China respected the country’s sovereignty, the South China Morning Post reported.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday seemed to endorse the Taliban taking over Kabul by saying that Afghanistan has broken the “shackles of slavery” in the neighbouring war-torn country.

Speaking at a ceremony to launch the first phase of the Single National Curriculum (SNC) from Grade 1 to 5, which was part of the manifesto of his ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party.

“When you adopt someone’s culture you believe it to be superior and you end up becoming a slave to it,” he said, adding that it creates a system of mental salves that is worse than the actual slavery.

In the same breath, he indirectly likened the ongoing upheaval in Afghanistan with the people of the country breaking the “shackles of slavery”.

Khan said becoming a mental slave was worse than being an actual slave, adding that subjugated minds can never make big decisions.

Pakistan is accused of facilitating the Taliban rebellion which ultimately resulted in the capturing of the country after being ousted about 20 years ago.

When the Taliban controlled approximately 90% of Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, Pakistan was one of the few countries which recognized the legitimacy of the regime. The other countries which did so were Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia and UAE.

Saudia Arabia, in a statement by its foreign ministry on Monday, called on the Taliban to preserve lives and property.

Russia’s presidential envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov said Moscow would not rush to recognize the Taliban and would make a decision based on the group’s actions, AFP reported.

The Russian ambassador is reportedly set to meet with the Taliban on Tuesday.

Russia is in contact with Taliban officials via its embassy in Kabul, President Vladimir Putin’s special representative on Afghanistan said on Monday, the Reuters reported.

(With agency inputs)

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