With the lightning advance of Taliban forces across Afghanistan and onto Kabul, world attention has turned to the chaos in the Afghan capital. Images of American helicopters lifting off evacuees invokes memories of Saigon’s rushed 1975 evacuation, while thousands of American soldiers and marines have deployed back into the country to protect the US evacuation. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his entourage are reportedly counted amongst the evacuees as the Afghan government crumbles.
Meanwhile, Germany’s foreign minister announced the dispatch of aircraft to help in the evacuation of the federal republic’s own embassy which has been closed on 15 August. Other NATO countries are following suit. Canada and Norway closed their embassies while France relocated its own to the Kabul airport. The U.K. deployed a 600-strong protection force to overwatch the evacuation of around 4,000 British nationals.
German foreign minister Heiko Maas told the press that “we are doing everything to enable our citizens and our former local staff to leave Afghanistan within the next days”. Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said that planes will leave Sunday night; NDTV reported that an unnamed source “familiar with the matter” claimed that two aircraft will evacuate people to Uzbekistan. Germany had been relatively quick to commit itself to evacuating local Afghans who have supported German forces in the country but it is estimated that over 1,000 former Afghan employees and their families remain and twice as many are likely eligible for relocation. Less than 100 Germans remain in the country.
As evacuations continue, the Kabul airport has been closed to international traffic. Spanish authorities flew out translators alongside their own citizens while an Air India special flight carried out 129 passengers from Kabul. Additionally, Indian media has reported that an Indian C-17 Globemaster remains on stand-by in case its needed to aid the evacuation.
The remains under U.S. protection currently while Kabul itself is largely under Taliban control following the collapse of the Afghan national government. The situation at the airport is understandably tense and it appears that Afghans have forced their way into the airport perimeter. Videos shared via social media appear to capture a burst of automatic small arms fire into the air with those sharing the footage suggesting the warning shots were fired in an effort to control desperate crowds. The footage and images shared via social media during the early hours of Monday morning show crowds rushing the airport’s flight line in the hopes of boarding an outbound flight.
The United Nations has asked the Taliban (and other parties) to show restraint as the complete takeover of the country becomes a soon-to-be inevitability. UN personnel are expected to remain in the country but the U.S. troops currently securing the airport’s perimeter will also have to be withdrawn once the evacuation of civilians is completed.
Editor’s Note: the situation in Kabul is fast moving, you can find our latest reporting on the evacuation here.
Additional reporting by Matthew Moss
Image: File photo – A family runs across a dusty street in Herat, Afghanistan UNAMA/Fraidoon Poya