Conflict Alerts # 425, 25 August 2021
In the news
On 23 August, the US Defence officials stated that the US military evacuated about 11,000 people from the Kabul airport in 24 hours, bringing the total to 37,000 since 14 August. On 24 August, a spokesperson for the European Commission stated: "All the staff who needed to be evacuated have been evacuated." Similarly, other countries, including the UK, Canada, Japan, India, Turkey, Australia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Poland, and Switzerland have evacuated their nationals and Afghans who worked with them.
On 22 August, Biden stated that his administration might extend the 31 August deadline for removing all American troops from Afghanistan, promising that all evacuated Afghan allies will be given a home in the United States after they are screened and vetted at bases in other countries. On 24 August, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stated: "Even if [the evacuation] goes on until 31 August or even a few days longer, it will not be enough to allow those who we, or the United States, want to fly out." Similarly, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said: "We are concerned about the deadline set by the United States on 31 August. Additional time is needed to complete ongoing operations."
On 23 August, Taliban spokespersons warned that the US troops staying beyond the agreed deadline of 31 August would be "extending occupation" and this would "provoke a reaction." They said: "It's a red line. President Biden announced that on 31 August, they would withdraw all their military forces. So, if they extend it, that means they are extending occupation while there is no need for that," adding, "If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations - the answer is no. Or there would be consequences."
Issues at large
First, the chaotic evacuation scenes at the Kabul Airport. Since the Taliban's takeover, foreign governments have tried to get their citizens and affiliated Afghan nationals out of Afghanistan while thousands of Afghans have gathered at Kabul airport in hopes of an evacuation. . The chaotic scenes outside the Kabul Airport have produced images of panic and desperation showing massive crowds of Afghans pressed up against a barbed-wire fence with children and women at the front crying for help. Additionally, there have been horrific scenes of people hanging onto departing planes. According to media reports, several people have been killed while others have been injured at the Kabul airport in stampedes.
Second, not all foreign governments are evacuating. While the US and most European countries have begun evacuating from Afghanistan, several other countries, including Pakistan, China and Russia, have not done the same. Additionally, the people being evacuated include foreign government staff and aid agency workers along with Afghan residents who have worked with these governments or their agencies.
Third, the withdrawal deadline. With the evacuation process far from being completed, the question of whether the withdrawal deadline of 31 August will be extended has been raised. In this light, several counties have called for the extension of the deadline, particularly the G7 countries that were scheduled to deliberate on the matter. However, the extension is a dilemma given that the Taliban has already issued a warning on the same.
First, the evacuation process was bound to be disorderly. With the deadline for withdrawal soon emerging and the Taliban's offensive and subsequent takeover, the evacuation process is likely to get complicated. With the evacuations still far from completion, countries are bound to facing more challenges.
Second, the focus has shifted from the Taliban's takeover to the situation at Kabul Airport. Over the last week, the horrid scenes at the Kabul Airport have preceded the issue over the Taliban's takeover. Additionally, the situation at the Kabul Airport has reinforced fears that the withdrawal would aggravate the already deteriorated security situation.
Third, rehabilitation of affiliated Afghan nationals post evacuation. Several countries have pledged to provide sanctuary for Afghans. However, with no logistics, it remains uncertain where they will be rehabilitated initially and their lives post-evacuation.