Europe gives dire warnings about Afghanistan evacuation

Kabul Airport Evacuation File ImageImage taken outside Kabul Airport on Aug. 16th. Representational Image | Picture Credit: AP

Britain, France, Germany and Denmark to finish evacuations amidst threat of Islamic State attack

The British, French and Danish militaries have given stark warnings about the security situation at the Kabul airport, where Afghan civilians are scrambling to evacuate ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline for foreign troops to leave Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey told the BBC on Thursday there was “very credible reporting of an imminent attack” at the airport. Other warnings emerged about a possible threat from Afghanistan’s Islamic State affiliate, which likely has seen its ranks boosted by the Taliban freeing prisoners across the country. Heappey conceded that people are desperate to leave and “there is an appetite by many in the queue to take their chances, but the reporting of this threat is very credible indeed and there is a real imminence to it.”

French Prime Minister Jean Castex told French radio RTL on Thursday that “from tomorrow evening onwards, we are not able to evacuate people from the Kabul airport” due to the Aug. 31 American withdrawal.

Meanwhile, Danish defense minister Trine Bramsen bluntly warned: “It is no longer safe to fly in or out of Kabul.” Denmark’s last flight, carrying 90 people plus soldiers and diplomats, already had left Kabul.

Tweet by German Army about plane departing Tashkent

The German army says it has sent another military transport plane to Kabul to evacuate further people from the Afghan capital. Altogether, the German army, or Bundeswehr, has airlifted 5,193 people out of Kabul, 539 of those on Wednesday. Government officials have not said when exactly the German evacuation mission is going to end but it is expected that the country will stop evacuating people with military planes ahead of the Americans’ pullout date of August 31.

Poland’s prime minister said that the country has evacuated over 900 Afghan citizens, as the country prepared to end its evacuation mission later Thursday. “The evacuation action from Afghanistan ends today,” said Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki at a news conference in Warsaw. Another government official, Michal Dworczyk, said that a total of 44 flights were made transporting over 1,100 people. More than 900 of them are Afghans who have cooperated with Poland for years. He said the last transport with civilians from Afghanistan would land in Poland on Thursday morning.

Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said talks with the Taliban were underway to determine the operation of Hamid Karzai International Airport. Turkey announced its troops had begun to leave Kabul, where they have been helping guard the airport, on Wednesday evening. Kalin said the troop withdrawal would be completed within 36 hours. Prior to the Taliban taking Kabul on Aug. 15, NATO member Turkey had offered to secure and operate the airport following the U.S. withdrawal.

Edited by Utsav Parekh (Inputs by the Associated Press)