Despite Kabul blasts, countries race against time to keep 31 August deadline of evacuations

The terror strikes at the Kabul airport on Thursday have cast a shadow over international emergency evacuation efforts in Afghanistan. The...

The terror strikes at the Kabul airport on Thursday have cast a shadow over international emergency evacuation efforts in Afghanistan.

There are also mounting fears that more terrorist attacks in Kabul are likely, as the 31 August deadline for military withdrawal from Afghanistan draws near.

Countries like Poland, Hungary and Canada have all wrapped up their operations entirely. Canada says it was "among the last to cease evacuation operations". Denmark says it has finished evacuations but that around 40 people with ties to the country remain in Afghanistan. On the other hand, the United Kingdom is ‘just hours away' from ending its evacuations on Friday.

United States

The US said more than 100,000 people have been safely evacuated from Kabul, but thousands more are struggling to leave in one of history’s largest airlifts.

The White House said Friday morning that 8,500 evacuees were flown out aboard US military aircraft in the previous 24 hours, along with about 4,000 people on coalition flights. That is about the same total as the day before the attacks.

US president Joe Biden has vowed to continue the evacuation efforts.

In fact, in the last 24 hours, about 12,500 people were airlifted out of Afghanistan. Over the past two weeks, coalition forces have evacuated approximately 105,000 people. Since the end of July, evacuations total about 110,600.

In light of the twin blasts, there has been intense pressure on Biden to extend the 31 August deadline, but the US president has said that things will go as per previous plans.

The US military will continue evacuating people from the Kabul airport until 31 August if needed but will prioritise the removal of US troops and military equipment on the last couple of days, the Pentagon has said.

United Kingdom

Britain said Friday its evacuations from Afghanistan will end within hours, and the main British processing center for eligible Afghans has been closed. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News there would be “eight or nine” evacuation flights on Friday. British troops will leave over the next few days.

As per the UK Ministry of Defence, Britain's Armed Forces have now entered the final stages of evacuation from the Kabul airport, saying the paperwork processing has been closed as the focus is on evacuating British nationals and others whose applications are already processed.

As of Thursday evening, the UK had evacuated 13,146 people from Afghanistan since 13 August.

However, Wallace shared his concern and worry about those who hadn't been evacuated. "It is with deep regret that not everyone has been able to be evacuated during this process. But I am proud of this remarkable achievement from our Border Force, Armed Forces, MoD, FCDO (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office), Home Office who have evacuated over 13,000 people in 14 days during Operation Pitting, he said.

"We will continue to honour our debt to all those who have not yet been able to leave Afghanistan. We will do all that we can to ensure they reach safety," he added.

Of the 13,146 that the UK has evacuated, 8,000 are Afghans, who are eligible under the UK's relocation scheme and other vulnerable individuals.

On Thursday, British prime minister Boris Johnson had said that the overwhelming majority of people eligible for evacuation from Kabul airport have now left Afghanistan. He had reiterated that the UK government will do "everything we can" to get those remaining out of the country soon.

India

In India's case, the Ministry of External Affairs on Friday said India's priority will be to evacuate the Indian citizens from Afghanistan and Afghan nationals "who stood by us".

Arindam Bagchi, the spokesperson for the MEA, in a press briefing said, "India has evacuated over 550 people in six separate flights, either from Kabul or Dushanbe.

News agency PTI reported that a document shared in the meeting shows that the Indian government has evacuated 175 Embassy personnel, 263 other Indian nationals, 112 Afghan nationals including Hindus and Sikhs, and 15 third-country nationals. The total figure stood at 565.

Germany

The German defence minister said her country has ended its evacuation mission in Afghanistan.

Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said the last of the German military aircraft and troops arrived in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on Thursday evening. She said that, in all, Germany evacuated 5,347 people from at least 45 nations, including more than 4,000 Afghans.

Kramp-Karrenbauer said the last flights had been loading at the time of Thursday's attacks just outside the airport and the German commander then set in motion plans for an emergency departure.

She added that "the attacks we saw this afternoon have made clear that an extension of the operation in Kabul was not possible. The security situation on the ground, and also the Taliban's decision not to tolerate an extension beyond 31 August, made it impossible".

Italy

Italy's last evacuation flight from Kabul left Afghanistan on Friday, ending the country's airlift operation, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said.

De Maio said "that as well as Afghan civilians, the flight will bring back to Italy our envoy Stefano Pontecorvo," the Italian diplomat serving as NATO's senior civil representative to Afghanistan.

France

France expects to complete its evacuation flights from Kabul on Friday evening, French prime minister Jean Castex said. The French foreign ministry said that, as of Wednesday evening, more than 100 French nationals and more than 2,000 Afghans had reached French soil after being evacuated from Kabul airport.

Japan

Meanwhile, Japan said it was still pursuing efforts in Kabul to evacuate its citizens and local staff who worked for the Japanese embassy and development agencies, despite the deadly suicide bomb attack at the Kabul airport.

Japan sent four military and government aircraft to Kabul and a nearby country earlier this week to evacuate its citizens as well as selected Afghan people — local staff who worked at the Japanese embassy and development agencies including Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Spain

Spain announced the end of its Kabul evacuations on Friday after a nine-day operation that saw more than 2,200 people flown out of the strife-torn country following the Taliban takeover.

The last two planes arrived in Dubai early on Friday, ending an airlift that began on 18 August. "In total, we have managed to evacuate 2,206 people," Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said, indicating the number was almost three times higher than expected and hailing the work involved in a mission of "extraordinary complexity".

"Mission accomplished," he said while insisting Spain was "not going to abandon the Afghan people".

Norway

Norway's foreign ministry said Friday that its evacuations from Afghanistan were over with two final planes touching down in Oslo.

"The last Norwegian plane from Kabul has just landed," Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide told AFP via email in the afternoon, adding that around 20 people had been on board.

Including a plane that landed Friday morning, over 1,100 people have been brought from Afghanistan to Norway since the Taliban returned to power in Kabul. Among the Afghans brought to Norway is the former minister for oil and mines Nargis Nehan.

Around 30 Norwegian army medics remain at a field hospital at Kabul airport that is treating dozens of people wounded in the Thursday bomb attack at the entrance, claimed by the Islamic State group.

Switzerland

The Swiss government said Friday it had ended its evacuation operation out of Kabul after helping airlift 385 people to Switzerland following the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan.

The foreign ministry said in a statement that 34 Swiss nationals and 51 people with permanent Swiss residence permits were among those in Switzerland evacuated over the past two weeks, with assistance from Germany.

Local employees of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and their families — 218 people in all — were also among those flown out in the "most extensive evacuation campaign in Swiss history."

But Bern said 11 citizens and 16 permanent residents of the wealthy Alpine nation remained in the war-torn country, including some working for international organisations on the ground.

Australia

Australia said Friday it pulled all its troops out of Afghanistan shortly before the Kabul airport bombings after receiving "very clear intelligence" of an impending attack.

"We were able to ensure the departure of the remaining Australian personnel over the course of last night, not that long before the terrible events that unfolded last night took place," Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a news conference.

Morrison said US and British forces had helped Australian troops over nine days to evacuate some 4,100 people, including 3,200 Australians and Afghan citizens with Australian visas.

The prime minister said Australia had completed its evacuation operations and was now in a "post-evacuation phase".

With inputs from AFP

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