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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Afghanistan. Taliban offensive. Evacuation of Americans, British and Canadians

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The rapid offensive of the Taliban to take control of Afghanistan forced the evacuation of US and British citizens who are still on the territory of the country and Afghans who collaborated with Western structures. Canada’s special forces are also preparing to evacuate their embassy in Kabul.

Ashraf Ghani’s government, which the Taliban has been calling for his departure as a condition for initiating peace settlement talks, controls Afghanistan’s ever thinner area. On Thursday night, it was reported that the Taliban had captured another provincial capital. Kandahar, located in the south of the country, fell into their hands. On Friday morning, Reuters reported that Kandahar had fallen. The Taliban now controls 13 out of all 34 Afghan provinces.

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Earlier on Thursday, the Taliban entered Herat, the third largest city in Afghanistan. They also took over the city of Ghazni, the capital of the province of the same name in eastern Afghanistan. Ghazni is the closest regional capital to Kabul, the regional capital that the Taliban captured since the start of the offensive in May, when the final withdrawal of international coalition forces from Afghanistan began.

READ MORE: Pakistani Prime Minister: Taliban do not want to negotiate with Afghan government as long as Ashraf Ghani is president

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The rapid offensive of the Taliban, which aimed to take control of all countries and in the perspective of Kabul, forced the evacuation of US and British citizens who are still on Afghan territory and Afghans who cooperated with Western structures. Washington announced that it would send 3,000 to Afghanistan. troops to oversee this process, London will send 600 troops. Canada’s special forces are also preparing to evacuate their embassy in Kabul on Thursday.

The Taiban offensive in Afghanistan is underway AKHTER GULFAM / PAP / EPA

Evacuation of American citizens from Afghanistan

On Thursday, US defense and foreign ministers Lloyd Austn and Antony Blinken spoke on the phone with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to explain the reasons for the drastic reduction of the US presence in Afghanistan and the decision made on Thursday to evacuate the remaining US citizens in the country.

The defense and foreign secretaries assured that the current government of Afghanistan can count on the determination of the US to maintain diplomatic ties and cooperation in the field of security, including combating terrorism. At the same time, they emphasized that in the face of the Taliban offensive, who already control 12 provinces out of 34 regions and are approaching Kabul, it is necessary to evacuate US citizens and intensify the SIV special flights program for Afghans previously cooperating with Americans who received special immigration visas to the US. The entire process is to be supervised by 3,000. American soldiers.

An Afghan security officer is on guard at the Jalalabad checkpointGHULAMULLAH HABIBI / PAP / EPA

US State Department spokesman Ned Price announced at a press conference in Washington that the troops mission would be temporary and that the US embassy in Kabul would remain open, though only the most essential staff would remain there. Price also announced an acceleration in the transport of Afghan interpreters and other US military assistants who are eligible for special visas. Only on Thursday, 1.2 thousand people were transported from the country in this way. Afghans, and further flights, including to the Fort Lee military base in Virginia, will take place daily. The deployment of additional troops is necessary due to the almost completed process of withdrawing troops from the country, as well as the rapidly deteriorating situation in the country related to the Taliban offensive. “If big cities fall so quickly and practically without a fight, it only shows that the Afghans are satisfied with our group’s appearance in them,” Taliban spokesmen told Al-Jazeera TV on Thursday. He also stressed that “the path of political regulation remains open”.

Blinken warns the Taliban against taking power in Afghanistan by forceReuters

London is sending hundreds of troops to Afghanistan to help evacuate the British

On Thursday evening, the British Ministry of Defense announced that around 600 British troops will be sent to Afghanistan to help the British leave the country. The British Foreign Office advised all Brits to leave Afghanistan last Friday, but it is estimated that there are still around 4,000 of them there.

Defense Minister Ben Wallace said the protection of British citizens, military personnel and former Afghan support personnel was a government priority and “everything we can do to keep them safe”. “I have instructed the deployment of additional military personnel to support a diplomatic presence in Kabul, help British citizens leave the country and support the relocation of former Afghan workers who risked their lives serving by our side,” he said. As he added, the transfer of soldiers to Afghanistan will start in the coming days.

The Ministry of Defense also said the British Embassy in Afghanistan will be significantly reduced but will remain open, and Ambassador Laurie Bristow will be relocated to a more secure neighborhood in Kabul.

Taliban offensive in AfghanistanPAP / EPA

Canadian embassy workers are getting ready to evacuate

Canadian special forces are also preparing to evacuate the Canadian embassy in Kabul, public broadcaster CBC reported Thursday, citing military sources.

There is also a group of Afghan families with children in the Canadian embassy building, according to Global News. Embassy employees – according to Global News sources – are preparing for the evacuation, including the destruction of classified documents. Global News says there are counter-terrorism and hostage relief specialists in the departments to assist with the embassy’s evacuation. According to CBC sources, Canadian troops are to cooperate with American and British troops. As underlined by the CBC, the decision on the possible closure and evacuation of the Canadian embassy in Kabul will be taken by the federal government.

AfghanistanPAP / EPA / M SADIQ

On Thursday, during a visit to Vancouver, Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said that even before the information about the Taliban seizure of Kandahar appeared, talks about the embassy in Kabul had been conducted all the time due to the deteriorating situation. “There is a contingency plan to ensure our personnel is safe,” Sajjan said.

On Wednesday night, the Canadian military accepted another flight of the plane with Afghans on board. These are the people who helped the Canadian troops during their mission in Afghanistan. The evacuation from Afghanistan affects entire families, and the federal government will continue to support Afghans who have benefited from Canadian troops, as the Defense Minister wrote on Thursday. The first aircraft with evacuated Afghans arrived in Canada last week. This is a special immigration program for the Canadian government and is intended for thousands of people, according to an announcement by Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino.

According to government figures, Canadian troops have been present in Afghanistan for 13 years. In the period from 2001 to 2014, about 40,000 soldiers of the Canadian contingent of NATO troops served there. 158 people were killed. The withdrawal of Canadian troops began in 2014.

Main photo source: PAP / EPA



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