Afghanistan: UK ambassador stays put to help evacuate citizens

Russia, Iran and China embassies to operate as usual as thousands of foreigners and Afghans flee Taliban rule

The British ambassador to Afghanistan decided to stay in the country on Thursday, while the Russian, Chinese and Iranian embassies remained open in Kabul despite the Taliban seizing power.

The country’s key officials including President Ashraf Ghani fled abroad shortly after the insurgents entered the capital on Sunday.

The fall of Kabul triggered a scramble by several countries to fly their diplomats and citizens out of the city's airport. Thousands of Afghans have also been trying to leave.

The US, which took over operations at the airport, was forced to suspend flights at one point as desperate Afghans flooded the runway.

Sir Laurie Bristow said he had postponed his departure plans and would remain at his post to help process the visa applications of British nationals and Afghans who were trying to leave.

“I’ve just stepped out of the evacuation handling centre for a moment,” he said in a video posted to Twitter on Wednesday.

“We’re putting everything we can into getting British nationals and Afghans who have worked with us in the past out of Afghanistan and to safety.”

The ambassador said on Tuesday that about 700 people had been taken out of Afghanistan.

“We’re trying to scale up the pace over the next couple of days ... trying to get out everyone who we need to get to safety as soon as we can.”

Many other countries have evacuated their embassies in Kabul because of security concerns following the Taliban takeover.

A senior Taliban official said earlier this week that their fighters had been told to maintain discipline and not enter any diplomatic buildings or interfere with embassy vehicles.

However, some embassies remained open in the Afghan capital after supposedly striking deals with Taliban officials.

Iran's embassy is open and fully active, state media reported on Tuesday, a day after Tehran welcomed the "military failure" of its arch-foe the US as it withdrew its forces from Afghanistan.

"The embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Kabul is fully open and active. Iran's consulate general in Herat is also open and active," said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh, quoted by the official news agency IRNA.

Russia’s special envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, said Moscow’s consulate in Kabul would not only remain open but was under the protection of the Taliban now that Mr Ghani had left the country.

Moscow only partially evacuated its embassy staff from the capital and its ambassador, Dmitry Zhirnov, met Taliban leaders on Tuesday and held “constructive talks.”

Russia’s foreign ministry officials and Mr Kabulov confirmed that the Taliban had secured the Russian compound.

“We will carefully see how responsibly they govern the country in the near future,” Mr Kabulov told a local radio station.

“And based on the results, the Russian leadership will draw the necessary conclusions.”

China has made it clear that it has no plans to remove embassy staff from the Afghan capital.

It has already signalled its intent to recognise and hold friendly relations with the Taliban.

Updated: August 19th 2021, 4:49 PM
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