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Afghanistan: EU, US and UK demand 'those in positions of power' facilitate evacuations

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By Euronews with AP
A U.S. Chinook helicopter flies over the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021.
A U.S. Chinook helicopter flies over the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Rahmat Gul
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More than 70 countries worldwide including European Union member states on Sunday evening called on all parties currently involved in Afghanistan to "respect and facilitate" the departure of foreign nationals and Afghans who wish to leave.

"Given the deteriorating security situation, we support, are working to secure, and call on all parties to respect and facilitate, the safe and orderly departure of foreign nationals and Afghans who wish to leave the country," the statement released by the US State Department says.

"Those in positions of power and authority across Afghanistan bear responsibility — and accountability — for the protection of human life and property, and for the immediate restoration of security and civil order," they add.

It demands that all roads, airports and border crossings remain open to allow those wishing to depart to do so.

"The Afghan people deserve to live in safety security and dignity. We in the international community stand ready to assist them," it ends.

The signatories include 24 EU member states, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Norway, the UK and the US.

A spokesperson for the Taliban, Mohammed Naeem, wrote on Twitter: "We assure all embassies, diplomatic missions, institutions and residences of foreign nationals in Kabul that there is no danger to them."

The arrival of the first waves of Taliban insurgents into Kabul on Sunday morning prompted the U.S. to begin evacuating the embassy building in full, leaving only acting ambassador Ross Wilson and a core of other diplomats operating at the airport.

Washington announced late on Sunday that its troops have secured the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul to "enable the safe departure of US and allied personnel from Afghanistan via civilian and military flights."

American troops were scheduled to be fully withdrawn by September 11 — to mark the 20th anniversary of terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon — but Washington has said that a total of 6,000 soldiers would be deployed "over the next 48 hours" with a mission focused solely on evacuating US and Afghan nationals.

Over the past two weeks, nearly 2,000 Afghan nationals eligible for US Special Immigrant Visas have already arrived in the US.

European counties including the UK, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Spain, Germany and France have also confirmed they are evacuating their nationals and Afghan citizens who have previously worked in their embassies or as translators for their troops over concerns for their security.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken insisted on ABC’s “This Week" that the evacuation "is being done in a very deliberate way, it's being done in an orderly way."

To many, the evacuations, and last-ditch rescue attempts by Americans and other foreigners trying to save Afghan allies, appeared far from orderly.

An Italian journalist, Francesca Mannocchi, posted a video of an Italian helicopter carrying her to the airport, an armed soldier standing guard at a window. Mannochi described watching columns of smoke rising from Kabul as she flew. Some were from fires that workers at the U.S. Embassy and others were using to keep sensitive material from falling in Taliban hands.

She said Afghans stoned an Italian convoy. She captioned her brief video: “Kabul airport. Evacuation. Game Over."

The Pentagon intends to have enough aircraft to fly out as many as 5,000 civilians a day, both Americans and the Afghan translators and others who worked with the U.S. during the war.

France's Minister for Armed Forces, Florence Parly, said two military planes would from Monday fly back and forth between Kabul and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates to evacuate people.

It was by no means clear how long Kabul’s deteriorating security would allow any evacuations to continue.