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India shuts last consulate in Afghanistan, Indian Air Force flying out citizens as Taliban closes in

India Evacuates its Consul staff and citizen as fight for Mazar-e-sharif in Afghanistan intensifies

As the Taliban has been gaining ground in Afghanistan, India has decided to evacuate its all consul staff from Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of northern Balkh province of Afghanistan. According to the Indian consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif, , Indian diplomats and officials and staff from the Indian consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif and Indian nationals living in and around the city  will be evacuated by a special Indian Airforce aircraft. According to the Indian consul in Mazar-e-Sharif, the flight will be leaving from Mazar-E-Sharif in the evening for Delhi. The consul has asked all Indian citizens  who wish to leave, should get in touch with the consulate.

The situation in Afghanistan is evolving on an hourly basis.  After overrunning 5 provincial capitals in 3 days, the Taliban now claims to have launched a fresh offensive on the city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

Out of four consulates in Afghanistan, consulates in Herat, Jalalabad and Kandahar are  closed temporarily. Mazar-e-Sharif consulate was India’s only fully functional  diplomatic outpost in Afghanistan. Last month, India evacuated 50 diplomats and security personnel from its Kandahar consulate in the wake of intense fighting between Afghan forces and Taliban militants. India's move to bring back its Indian staff has in the midst of growing global concerns over the rapid advance of Taliban fighters and their seizure  of a large number of areas in Afghanistan, triggering huge security concerns.  Russia, Pakistan and Iran are among a raft of countries that have suspended all operations of their consulates in Mazar-e-Sharif.

Also read:  India evacuates staff from Kandahar consulate over security concerns

India has already issued a security advisory for its nationals living in the war-torn country. The Indian embassy in Kabul has asked Indians staying, visiting and working in Afghanistan to exercise utmost vigilance at all times. They have also been asked to avoid all non-essential travel as the security situation in Afghanistan worsens. Quoting the local sources Afghan media has reported that the Taliban have broken defence lines of government  forces around Mazar-e-Sharif. Local sources also report that Dehdadi district is overrun by the Taliban. According to Afghan defence ministry, the Afghan and the US air force have been targeting the Taliban since Monday.

Steeped in history and for long an economic hub, Mazar-e-Sharif is the largest city in the north, widely considered a linchpin to the government’s control over the area. Mazar's longtime strongman Atta Mohammad Noor vowed Monday to fight for the city, saying there would be "resistance until the last drop of my blood". The former governor of Balkh, Noor had a meeting with his commanders on Monday. “Commanders have gone to the trenches, were in high spirits and had assured the people that they would stand up for their lives to defend Balk.”

Also read:   How murder of diplomats in Mazar-e-Sharif 23 years ago permanently scarred Iran-Pakistan ties

In a tweet, Noor said: “We hear the enemy is planning an attack on #Balkh. Have asked the uprising forces to be standby alongside the #ANDSF. The enemy will regret if commits a mistake. Assure the people of our resistance until the last drop of my blood. I prefer dying in dignity than dying in despair," he tweeted.

Noor  also denied the Taliban’s  claim that Sheberghan City, capital of Jowzjan, was captured by them.

“Dear countrymen!  Sheberghan City of Jowzjan hasn’t fallen to the Taliban & it never will. We are together & reiterate our joint commitment to stand by the #ANDSF to defend.  Like before, we will change north to the graveyard of the Taliban. The resistance will continue. If there are changes in the battle lines for limited hours, it does not mean a fall,” he tweeted.

23 year ago, on August 8, 1998, the Taliban attacked the city of Mazar-e-Sharif and committed genocide against the defenceless Hazara civilians. It’s estimated that up to 10,000 people were brutally murdered. The perpetrators have not yet been prosecuted and they are back again.