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Taliban may kill us for working with 'infidels', says Afghan employed by EU mission

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By Alice Tidey
People evacuated from Afghanistan pose in front of a German Bundeswehr airplane after arriving at the airport in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Aug. 17, 2021.
People evacuated from Afghanistan pose in front of a German Bundeswehr airplane after arriving at the airport in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Aug. 17, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Bundeswehr via AP   -  

A former Afghan employee of the European Union Police Mission in Afghanistan (EUPOL) told Euronews she is hiding in her basement over fears the Taliban may kill her for being a "traitor".

The 41-year-old woman worked for EUPOL for seven years until it was shuttered in December 2016. The agency, part of the EU External Action Service (EEAS), was set up in Afghanistan in 2007 to support and train the local police.

Now with the Taliban back in power after a breathtakingly fast campaign through the country culminating with the capture of capital Kabul on Sunday, she is among those fearing for her life.

"I'm feeling very worried and concerned for my family's safety as I see Taliban are moving around our house and it's been three days that we have hibernated in the house basement seeking a solution to leave," the former EUPOL employee told Euronews on Wednesday.

"(The) Taliban are searching home by home to find evidence of people who worked with (the) international community."

"Our request is for the EU to evacuate us as soon as possible because the Taliban may reach us and they might kill us accusing us of working with infidels and we have been considered traitors," she said.

She emphasised that other former staff of EUPOL face the same struggle and that they are in contact with each other.

'Kids and women have been injured'

Western countries, surprised by the militant group's rapid victory, have scrambled to evacuate their nationals and local staff. The EU mission to Afghanistan as well as embassies for several member states has relocated to Kabul airport to coordinate the evacuations and process visa requests.

The airport is under US military control but evacuations were slowed down after panic set in on Monday when thousands of Afghans crowded the tarmac. Distressing footage released online showed desperate Afghans attempting to flee the now Taliban-led country by clinging to departing aircraft and falling to their death.

The Taliban have said they have no wish to retaliate against government workers or staff for foreign institutions and have declared a "general amnesty".

They also said on Monday that "no problem will be created" for "all the diplomats, embassies, consulates, and charitable workers whether they are international or national" and that "a secure environment will be provided".

But reports have emerged that some foreign nationals or Afghan staff have struggled to get to the airport and were shot at attempting to do so. Many fear being stopped by the Taliban en route. The security situation is made all the worse by criminals taking advantage of the chaos.

The former EUPOL staffer told Euronews of her own worries about reaching the airport, describing the situation there as "very bad".

"Kids and women have been injured in the rush to get to the gate. No water or food is available in the area. Some children and women unconscious of dehydration (sic)," she went on.

She said however that she can probably reach it with the help of her brothers and other relatives or by wearing a burqa.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a press briefing at the White House on Tuesday that "very large numbers of people have been able to get to the airport and present themselves."

He did, however, acknowledge "reports of people being turned away or pushed back or even beaten" in their attempts to reach the facility.

"We are taking that up in a channel with the Taliban to try to resolve those issues. And we are concerned about whether that will continue to unfold in the coming days," he said.

EU doing 'everything we can'

Euronews reached out to the EEAS on Wednesday and was referred to a statement delivered the day before by Josep Borrell, the bloc's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Borrell said that the bloc's "main priority" was the evacuation of its citizens and "Afghan citizens who worked with us for more than 20 years if they want to leave the country."

"We cannot abandon them and we will do – we are doing – everything we can in order to bring them and to offer them shelter in the European Union Member States," he said.

He explained that member states had so far delivered visas to "almost 400 people and their families, who have been working to support our Delegation and our missions in Afghanistan".

It is unclear how many Afghan people have worked for the EU mission in Afghanistan and could thus qualify for evacuation.

Borrell explained that Spain had agreed to provide a hub to receive Afghan staff for the EU delegation from which they would then be "disseminated among the different Member States that offer them visas" and also expressed gratitude to Italy "for offering Air Bridge facilities" and France "for providing military security on the ground."

"The work is in process. We are very much aware of the difficulties," he stressed.

For the former EUPOL worker, who after three days in her basement reports feelings of "serious depression", there has been "so far no ultimate progress for evacuation to EU."

"We are waiting with hope and dream to leave to any country," she said.