Closed, Relocated or Open: What's the Status of Embassies in Afghanistan?
Many embassies in Afghanistan have drawn down their shutters or relocated. Evacuation process is also underway.
Amid terrifying reports from Afghanistan such as those of Taliban firing at protesters or conducting "targeted door-to-door visits" of their opponents; as well a perceived threat to life of many residents of the country; scenes of utter distress and desperation are emerging from the Kabul airport.
These developments come even as the organisation, in an attempt to dispel the fears, had promised security for all.
Visuals of panic at the Kabul airport include those of babies being passed to the front of queues at the airport so that at least they can get out of the country, and people falling to their deaths many feet below after they clung to a plane as it took off.
Meanwhile, many embassies have also drawn down their shutters or relocated.
Here is the present reported status of some of the embassies that were, or in a few cases, still are operational in Afghanistan; and the evacuation processes underway.
The American flag is no longer flying at the United States Embassy in Kabul and nearly all embassy personnel have been relocated to the city’s International Airport.
The embassy, in its latest press release, dated 19 August, said that the “US government-provided flights are departing Kabul and will continue until the evacuation operation is complete.” But the embassy also added — in bold, italicised letters — that the “US government cannot ensure safe passage to the airport.”
Further, pointing out that they are processing people at multiple gates, the embassy also said that gates may open or close without notice.
“Please use your best judgment and attempt to enter the airport at any gate that is open,” the embassy added, along with a link to their travel advisory that pertains to “ongoing threats in Afghanistan”.
Meanwhile, as per a Reuters report, informal American refugee networks are attempting to rescue Afghans facing threats from the Taliban regime. The report also quoted Democratic Representative Jason Crow as saying that people were emailing and texting passport photos and visa information to him.
Crow also said that informal chat groups shared details like which airport gates were open.
“Most operations at the British Embassy in Kabul are temporarily suspended in response to the deterioration in the security situation,” reads the embassy website, and also informs that the embassy site has been relocated.
Meanwhile, as per a report by The Guardian, most of the security team of the embassy had been given informal notice, on Thursday, that they no longer had jobs guarding the embassy and were ineligible for protection because they were hired through an outsourced contractor.
Subsequently, amid backlash, however, the armed forces minister, James Heappey, suggested that the employees had been brought to Kabul airport where UK and US forces are overseeing an evacuation.
The Guardian, however, also reported that some of the guards had told them that they had still not heard from their employer about any proposed evacuation.
An Afghan man who had worked in the kitchens of the British embassy, was also quoted, by Guardian as appealing to President Boris Johnson for help.
“I am really scared, frightened. We have not been outside our house for four days. Every sound at the door makes us fear for our lives…”
“They (Taliban) will never forgive us for working with foreign governments,” he added.
The Chinese Embassy in Afghanistan, on the other hand, continues to function as normal, with the Taliban reportedly having pledged to guarantee its safety.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Wang Yu informed Global Times that there are only embassy employees present at the compound as diplomats’ families have not accompanied them to Afghanistan for years.
Wang Yu also said that among the few Chinese nations remaining in Afghanistan , some hope the embassy can help them return to China as soon as possible. He also added, however, that they may have to wait until commercial flights resume.
The Russian Embassy has stayed put in Afghanistan, as well. Their ambassador, as per AP news, also met the Taliban for what he dubbed “constructive” talks, following Taliban’s seizure of Kabul.
Following the meeting, Russian ambassador to to Kabul, Dmitry Zhirnov, also praised the Taliban as reasonable and added that the Taliban guaranteed the embassy's security.
As per media reports, Pakistan’s embassy continues to remain functional in Afghanistan, with its staff providing consular assistance and helping people get out of the country.
Further, as per Express Tribune, Pakistan is also now offering a special package of transit visa to Afghan diplomats and high officials upon their arrival at Islamaba. Meanwhile Pakistan Embassy in Kabul continues to extend consular services for Pakistanis, Afghans and nationals of other countries and help them leave the country.
As per reports, the Indian embassy in Kabul has not been officially shut yet and is functioning with local aid.
Meanwhile, Indian Embassy personnel were evacuated by an Indian Air Force C-17 aircraft on 17 August, which brought back approximately 150 Indians, including ITBP personnel from the Kabul airport. Prior to that, another aircraft had airlifted 45 Indians from Afghanistan.
India also has four Indian consulates located in Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif and Jalalabad which were closed after the Taliban took control of Kabul on 15 August.
As per media reports the Taliban ransacked the closed consulates in Kandahar and Herat two days ago and reportedly took some documents from the two missions,
"We expected this. They ransacked the place searched documents and also took away our parked vehicles from both embassies," NDTV reported, quoting a senior officer.
(With inputs from AP, Reuters, The Guardian, NDTV, Express Tribune and Global Times)
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