World reacts as Taliban closes in on Afghan capital

Governments, world leaders react to Taliban forces surrounding Kabul amid reports of a ‘peaceful transfer of power’.

An Afghan soldier stands on a military vehicle in a street in Kabul on Sunday [Reuters]
An Afghan soldier stands on a military vehicle in a street in Kabul on Sunday [Reuters]

World reaction was swift after the Taliban closed in on Kabul as a takeover by the armed group appeared imminent on Sunday.

The group has swept through the country in a devastating week-long offensive after United States-led forces withdrew. Its campaign accelerated to lightning speed in the last week, capturing Kandahar and Herat, the country’s second and third-largest cities, and shocking Western countries as the Afghan military’s defences collapsed.

The Taliban earlier ordered its fighters to hold back from entering Kabul city, and Afghan Interior Minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal said there would be a “peaceful transfer of power” to a transitional government.

But Taliban fighters entered Kabul and President Ashraf Ghani left Afghanistan saying he wanted to avoid bloodshed.

Below are world reactions to the Taliban moving on Kabul:

Pakistan

Pakistan’s foreign office spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri told Geo News TV: “We’re concerned about the increasingly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan … We have not taken any decision to close our embassy.”

European Union

EU Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas said in a tweet: “The clock has run out on how long we can wait to adopt the complete overhaul of Europe’s migration and asylum rules we need.”

Joe Biden

US President Joe Biden said in a statement before the Taliban entered Kabul: “One more year, or five more years, of US military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country.

“And an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me.”

United States

The United States is unlikely to change its military strategy in Kabul unless the Taliban affect the evacuation of the embassy, a US official said. The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the US had not yet seen the Taliban enter Kabul in a major way.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that the Biden administration was focused “first and foremost on the safety and security” of US diplomatic personnel, who he confirmed were being moved from the embassy to a facility at the airport.

Blinken added that the US has “been very clear with the Taliban that any effort on their part to interrupt our operations, to attack our forces, to attack our personnel, would be met with a very strong, decisive response”.

The US Embassy in Kabul, meanwhile, warned in a security alert that the security situation in the Afghan capital was changing quickly. “There are reports of the airport taking fire; therefore we are instructing US citizens to shelter in place,” it said.

United Nations

The United Nations chief on Sunday urged the Taliban to “exercise utmost restraint” in Afghanistan, hours after the Taliban entered the capital.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “is particularly concerned about the future of women and girls, whose hard-won rights must be protected,” a UN statement said.

The UN Security Council is due to meet on Monday on the situation in Afghanistan.

Russia

Russia’s foreign ministry official Zamir Kabulov said his country is working with other countries to hold an emergency UN Security Council meeting on Afghanistan.

“We are working on this,” Kabulov told Russian news agencies, adding the meeting will take place.

Russia is one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, along with the United States, Britain, France and China.

Kabulov also said Moscow does not plan to evacuate its embassy in Kabul, saying the Taliban had offered Russia and other countries – which he did not name – security assurances for their missions in Afghanistan.

Qatar

Qatar called on Sunday for a peaceful transition of power in Afghanistan that paves the way for a comprehensive political solution that includes all Afghan parties and realises security and stability.

The Gulf Arab state’s foreign ministry in a statement also stressed the need for an immediate and lasting ceasefire in Afghanistan and to guarantee safety of civilians.

India

The Indian embassy will not shut down in Kabul but officials are working swiftly towards an evacuation plan, a foreign ministry official said.

United Kingdom

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

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

Nobody should bilaterally recognise the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan, Johnson said later on Sunday, adding it was clear that there would be a new administration in the country very shortly.

“We don’t want anybody bilaterally recognising the Taliban,” he said.

“We want a united position amongst all the like-minded as far as we can get one,” Johnson added.

Germany

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Germany will begin flying its embassy staff out of Kabul later Sunday, adding that the employees were currently all safe at the military section of the airport.

“We are doing everything now to enable our nationals and our former local employees to leave the country in the coming days,” said Maas.

Germany’s Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said the German government plans to “set up a hub in a third country outside Afghanistan” which can act as a staging post to get people out of the country and back to Germany.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has evacuated all members of its diplomatic mission in Kabul, state news agency SPA said.

“All members of the Kingdom’s embassy in the Afghan capital, Kabul, have been evacuated, and they have arrived home,” it said.

United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates foreign ministry 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, Abu Dhabi said in a statement.

The UAE is a major international air transit hub.

Albania

Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama said 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, 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.

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”.

Canada

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Sunday that the “rapidly evolving situation” in Afghanistan poses challenges for Canada’s diplomatic mission in the country, and as a result, Canadian personnel were on their way back to Canada.

“Our commitment to the people of Afghanistan, including women and girls and the LGBTQ2 communities, remains unwavering,” Trudeau said, adding that his government had committed to resettling up to 20,000 Afghans through a special immigration programme.

The government said in a statement that the Canadian embassy in Kabul would resume operations “as soon as the security situation in Afghanistan allows us to guarantee appropriate service and adequate security for our staff”.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis called for dialogue to end the conflict in Afghanistan so that its people can live in peace, security and reciprocal respect.

“I join in the unanimous worry about the situation in Afghanistan. I ask you to pray along with me to the God of peace so that the din of weapons ends and that solutions can be found around a table of dialogue,” Francis said to pilgrims and tourists in Saint Peter’s Square.

“Only this way can the martyred population of that country – men, women, elderly and children – return to their homes and live in peace and security in full reciprocal respect,” he said.

Austria

Austria’s Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said the instability will “spill over to Europe”.

“Conflict and instability in the region will sooner or later spill over to Europe and thus to Austria,” Austria’s APA news agency quoted him as saying in announcing an aid conference to support Afghanistan’s Central Asian neighbours.

Sweden

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

Taliban fighters began entering Kabul on Sunday after taking control of all of Afghanistan’s major cities apart from the capital.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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