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Dutch may have to close Kabul embassy, will bring back some Afghan staff

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By Reuters

AMSTERDAM – The Dutch government said on Friday it may have to close its embassy in Kabul and was working quickly to bring back some of its local Afghan staff in light of the collapsing security situation in Afghanistan.

Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag told reporters in The Hague that the Netherlands intends to keep its embassy open as long as possible, but this could prove untenable if Kabul came under Taliban siege or was captured by the Islamist insurgents.

A spokeswoman for the Dutch Foreign Ministry confirmed a drawdown of embassy employees was underway but would not say how many Dutch staff remained, citing security concerns.

“We are evaluating all options,” said Tessa van Staden.

Dutch broadcaster NOS cited Defence Minister Ank Bijleveld as saying that the number of Afghan translators and local staff to be evacuated amounted to “a few dozen.”

Last week the Dutch Foreign Ministry called on any Dutch citizens remaining in Afghanistan to leave quickly, and warned that the embassy could not support or evacuate them.

The Taliban tightened their grip on Afghanistan on Friday, wresting control of its second and third biggest cities while Western embassies prepared to send in troops to help evacuate staff from the capital.

The defeats have fuelled fears the U.S.-backed Kabul government could fall to the insurgents as international forces complete their withdrawal after 20 years of war.

A U.S. defence official cited U.S. intelligence as saying this week that the Taliban could take Kabul within 90 days.