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Desperation mounts as Taliban’s deadline to evacuate foreigners nears

Countries race to evacuate people from Kabul (Photo: IANS)

With the evacuation deadline just days away, countries are evacuating their nationals and friendly Afghans double fast. Despite the haste, many countries admit that not all Afghan nationals who had helped NATO forces would be able to leave the country.

Even as the situation becomes desperate, optimism mounted after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the Taliban has committed to allow at-risk Afghans to leave the country.

At a press briefing in Washington, Blinken said: "The Taliban have made public and private commitments to provide and permit safe passage for Americans, for third-country nationals, and Afghans at risk going forward past August 31." He added that 114 countries and US allies have told the Taliban to provide a safe passage to anyone who wishes to leave the country, even after the August 31 deadline.

Blinken also emphasised that there is no deadline for the US as it will continue to evacuate its nationals and other Afghans even after month end.

Meanwhile, Denmark says that it has finished pulling out 1,000 people that it wanted to extricate. On Wednesday, the Danish Defence Ministry said: "The last Danish Hercules plane has taken off from Kabul. Since August 15, the Danish air force has taken more than 1,000 people out of Afghanistan".

Denmark has evacuated its embassy personnel, Danish families, Afghan translators and some citizens of other countries.

News service Associated Press says that more than 82,000 people have been evacuated since Kabul fell to the militants on August 15.

The US has been asking other countries to accept Afghan refugees. Uganda, Rwanda, Costa Rica and Albania have agreed to host Afghans while the Central Asian Republics have refused the American request.

With every passing day, the Taliban is becoming increasingly rigid and evacuation is a risky process. Violence and occasional firing have often erupted around the Kabul airport. Many have died in the frenetic scramble to get out of Afghanistan.

The Taliban also murdered the relative of a Deutsche Welle journalist last week as it continuously hunts for people who had supported the US and NATO forces, or those who worked for the Afghan government.

Besides the deadline, the US has identified newer problems cropping up in the country. A White House statement says that US forces face increasing threats from the global terror group—ISIS-Khorasan.

Despite friendly noises, the Taliban has not made the evacuation job easy. It has often stopped people from reaching the Kabul airport—currently the only legal way to vacate the country immediately. In the latest move, it is preventing Afghans from leaving the country.