Sunday saw events in Afghanistan unfold with lightning speed with reports that President Ashraf Ghani had left Afghanistan with his top advisers in tow after resigning and the Taliban had entered the capital of Kabul.
From the US secretary of state insisting that a repeat of Saigon was not occurring to Pakistan's foreign office expressing hope for a political settlement, here's how the world reacted to Sunday's events:
'This is not Saigon', says US secretary of State
US secretary of state Antony Blinken flat out rejected Sunday comparisons between Washington's Kabul pullout and the chaotic American departure from Saigon in 1975.
"This is not Saigon," he told ABC. "The fact of the matter is this: We went to Afghanistan 20 years ago with one mission in mind. That was to deal with the people that attacked us on 9/11. That mission has been successful."
Blinken further blamed the defence forces for not being able to defend Afghanistan and issued a warning to the Taliban.
Blinken, defending the Biden administration, told CNN, "The idea that the status quo could have been maintained by keeping our forces there, I think, is simply wrong."
Secretary of State Antony Blinken defends the Biden administration's decision to pull US forces out of Afghanistan: "The idea that the status quo could have been maintained by keeping our forces there, I think, is simply wrong." #CNNSOTU https://t.co/5uk1k2vMbY pic.twitter.com/qlX6LU7BTB
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) August 15, 2021
“We haven’t asked the Taliban for anything," Blinken further said. "We’ve told the Taliban that if they interfere with our personnel, with our operations as we’re proceeding with this drawdown, there will be a swift and decisive response."
'Hope all sides will work together': Pakistan
Pakistan said on Sunday that it was closely watching the evolving situation in neighbouring Afghanistan while making efforts for a political settlement, as the Taliban insurgents entered Kabul and moved closer to retaking full control of the war-torn country. Foreign Office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri issued a statement about the current situation in Afghanistan where the Taliban control large areas of the country,
“Pakistan is closely following the unfolding situation in Afghanistan. Pakistan will continue to support the efforts for a political settlement. We hope all Afghan sides will work together to resolve this internal political crisis,” he said. Chaudhri said the Embassy of Pakistan in Kabul was extending necessary assistance to Pakistanis, Afghan nationals and the diplomatic and international community for consular work and coordination of the Pakistan International Airlines flights.
He said a special inter-ministerial cell has been established in the Ministry of Interior to facilitate visa/arrival matters for diplomatic personnel, UN agencies, international organisations, the media, and others.
'Closely monitoring fast-changing situation', says MEA
Sources told ANI that India is closely monitoring the fast-changing situation in Afghanistan to decide on the evacuation of diplomatic personnel from Kabul.
People familiar with the development said the government will not put the lives of its staffers at the Indian embassy and Indian citizens in Kabul at any risk and plans have already been finalised in case they require emergency evacuation. "The government is closely monitoring the fast-paced developments in Afghanistan. We will not put the lives of our staff at the Indian embassy in Kabul at any risk," said one of the persons cited above.
Specifically asked when the Indian staffers and citizens in Kabul will be evacuated, they said decisions will depend on the ground situation. It is learnt that a fleet of the C-17 Globemaster military transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force is kept on standby to undertake evacuation missions.
'Biggest disaster since Suez', says Tory MP
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was on Sunday to hold further crisis talks on Afghanistan, his office said, as he recalled Parliament from its summer break. A Downing Street spokesperson said Johnson had called a meeting of the COBR emergencies committee to discuss the situation, which follows the withdrawal of US-led forces, the second such meeting in three days.
Parliament on Sunday said it had approved Johnson's request to call back MPs on Wednesday for an urgent debate on what Britain, which lost 457 troops in the two-decade-long war, should do next. Taliban fighters were on the outskirts of Kabul on Sunday and on the brink of a complete military takeover of Afghanistan, leading British politicians to call for a last-ditch intervention. Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Commons Defence Committee, urged Johnson to "think again" about stepping in.
"We have an ever-shrinking window of opportunity to recognise where this country is going as a failed state," he told Times Radio. "Just because the Americans won't, does not mean to say that we should be tied to the thinking, the political judgement, particularly when it is so wrong, of our closest security ally.
"We could prevent this, otherwise history will judge us very, very harshly in not stepping in," he warned. Ellwood said the government could deploy the Royal Navy's HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group to provide air support. He called the crisis "the biggest single policy disaster since Suez".
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace defended Britain’s move to pull troops out of the country. Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, he said “we have not betrayed Afghanistan.” He wrote that the UK could not “go it alone” after the US announced its plans to withdraw. “It would be arrogant to think we could solve Afghanistan unilaterally,” he said.
Johnson vowed on Friday that Britain will not "turn our backs" on Afghanistan, even as he confirmed the imminent withdrawal of most embassy staff in the face of a rapid Taliban onslaught.
However, he said that those calling for an intervention "have got to be realistic about the power of the UK or any power to impose a military solution -- a combat solution -- in Afghanistan". With the Islamists seizing control of more Afghan cities, Britain is deploying around 600 troops to help evacuate its roughly 3,000 nationals from the country, and Johnson said the "vast bulk" of remaining embassy staff in Kabul would return to the UK.
The Foreign Office said on Sunday that Britain had "temporarily suspended most operations" at its embassy in Kabul and was doing "all we can to enable remaining British nationals, and those Afghans who have worked for us and who are eligible for relocation, to leave Afghanistan". Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer backed the move to recall parliament, saying in a statement: "The situation in Afghanistan is deeply shocking and seems to be worsening by the hour.
"The government has been silent while Afghanistan collapses, which let's be clear will have ramifications for us here in the UK. "We need parliament recalled so the government can update MPs on how it plans to work with allies to avoid a humanitarian crisis and a return to the days of Afghanistan being a base for extremists."
Most of the remaining British troops assigned to the NATO mission in Afghanistan left last month, according to Johnson. As well as the fallen troops, the conflict has cost Britain around £40 billion ($55 billion).
In 2014, the British mission in Afghanistan, centred on the restive southern province of Helmand, shifted from a combat operation to one focused on supporting Afghan national forces, with the help of around 750 troops.
'Will work for stability', vows Erdogan
Turkey’s president says his country will work for stability in Afghanistan along with Pakistan, in order to stem a growing migration wave amid the Taliban's countrywide offensive. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Afghans were increasingly attempting to migrate to Turkey via Iran, urging an international effort to bring stability to the country and prevent mass migration.
Erdogan was speaking at a naval ceremony with Pakistan’s president. He said Pakistan had a “vital task” to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan, where clashes have intensified. Turkish-Pakistani cooperation would be needed for this, and Turkey would use all possibilities to do so, Erdogan added. Erdogan did not mention any changes to a proposal for Turkey to secure and operate the airport in Kabul.
'Share unanimous concern', says Pope
Pope Francis said Sunday that he shares “the unanimous concern for the situation in Afghanistan" as Taliban fighters sweep across the war-torn country. He spoke as the Taliban entered the outskirts of Kabul, the Afghan capital, and said they were awaiting a “peaceful transfer” of the city. From a window overlooking St. Peter's Square, the pope asked for prayers “so that the clamor of weapons may cease and solutions may be found at the negotiating table.”
He added that “only in this way, may the battered population of the country -- men and women, elderly and children -- return to their homes and live in peace and safety, with full mutual respect.”
'Shall not say no,' says Albania's PM
Albania's prime minister says his country will temporarily shelter hundreds of Afghans who worked with the Western peacekeeping military forces and are now threatened by the Taliban. On his Facebook page, Edi Rama said the US.government had asked Albania to serve as a “transit place for a certain number of Afghan political emigrants who have the United States as their final destination.”
“No doubt we shall not say no,” he said.
He added that the Albanian government has also responded positively to requests from two US NGOs to shelter hundreds of Afghan intellectuals and women activists who have been threatened with execution by the Taliban.
The Albanian prime minister said that his country stands alongside the United States “not only when we need them for our problems ... but even when they need us, any time.”