World reacts as Taliban sweep through Afghanistan

FILE PHOTO: Taliban delegates speak during talks between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents in Doha, Qatar September 12, 2020. REUTERS/Ibraheem al Omari/File Photo

DUBAI (RAHNUMA): The world is reacting to the rapid developments in Afghanistan after Taliban insurgents reached the outskirts of Kabul on Sunday, capping a major offensive and taking control of major cities in the country apart from the capital.

US

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the US is evacuating remaining staff at the US Embassy in Kabul as the Taliban enter the Afghan capital. But he is playing down America’s hasty exit, saying “this is manifestly not Saigon.”

Speaking on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Blinken said: “The compound itself, our folks are leaving there, and moving to the airport.”

Blinken also confirmed that US Embassy workers were destroying documents and other items ahead of fleeing the embassy, but insisted “this is being done in a very deliberate way, it’s being done in an orderly way, and it’s being done with American forces there to make sure we can do it in a safe way.”

The evacuation of the US Embassy in Kabul had US military helicopters lifting off from embassy grounds Sunday, and sent puffs of black smoke up into the skies over Kabul as US officials worked to keep sensitive material from falling in Taliban hands.

The scene comes after President Joe Biden earlier this year played down any idea that the Taliban could capture the country, or that the Afghanistan war would end up in scenes reminiscent of the Vietnam one, with military helicopters taking off from embassy rooftops.

Blinken defended Biden’s decision to end the nearly 20-year US military mission in Afghanistan, saying Biden’s hands were tied by a withdrawal deal President Donald Trump struck with the Taliban in 2020.

If Biden had called off the withdrawal, “we would have been back at the war with the Taliban,” and forced to surge tens of thousands of American forces back into Afghanistan, Blinken said.

UAE

The United Arab Emirates foreign ministry on Sunday said it was working on facilitating the evacuation of foreign diplomatic staff from Afghanistan through airports in the Gulf Arab state.

That included diplomatic staff from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Egypt, Australia and the European Union it said in a statement.

The UAE is a major international air transit hub.

Russia 
Russia’s state news agency reported Sunday that the Taliban promised to guarantee the safety of the Russian embassy in Kabul.

Tass quoted Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, as saying that the organization has “good relations with Russia” and a “policy in general to ensure safe conditions for the functioning of the Russian and other embassies.”

The Kremlin’s envoy on Afghanistan said Sunday that there are no plans to evacuate the Russian embassy in Kabul. Zamir Kabulov told the Interfax news agency that Russia’s ambassador and its staff are “calmly carrying out their duties.”

The reports came as Taliban fighters entered Kabul after a week-long blitz ahead of the final pullout of American and NATO troops. The Taliban said they don’t plan to take the capital city by force.

Germany 

Germany is sending military transport planes to Kabul to begin the evacuation of its embassy staff Monday.

The German news agency dpa reported Sunday that the mission will include the evacuation of local Afghan staff working for the German embassy. A German official, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to be quoted, told The Associated Press that paratroopers will secure the operation.

The military planes are expected to ferry evacuees from Kabul to a base in Central Asia, from where charter planes will bring them to

Italy

Italian media reported Sunday that most personnel at the Italian Embassy in Kabul are being transferred to the Afghan capital’s airport in preparation for evacuation.

The report Sunday by Corriere della Sera said the move affects some 50 Italian staffers and 30 Afghan employees and their families, along with Carabinieri paramilitary police protecting the embassy.

Sweden 
Sweden will evacuate all its embassy staff from Kabul on Sunday, public service broadcaster Swedish Radio reported, citing sources.

Vatican – Pope Francis 
Pope Francis expressed his “concern” Sunday over the conflict in Afghanistan and called for dialogue so that the “battered population” can live in peace.

“I join in the unanimous concern for the situation in Afghanistan,” the pontiff said during the weekly Angelus at the Vatican.

“I ask all of you to pray with me to the God of peace so that the clamour of weapons might cease and solutions can be found at the table of dialogue.

“Only thus can the battered population of that country – men, women, elderly and children – return to their own homes, and live in peace and security, in total mutual respect.”

UK
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will seek to recall parliament next week from its summer break over the developing crisis in Afghanistan, domestic media reported on Sunday.

MPs are likely to be called back for urgent debate on what Britain, which lost 457 troops in the two-decade long war, should do next, Downing Street sources told Sky News and the Press Association.

Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Commons Defence Committee, urged Johnson to “think again” about stepping in.

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