The massive evacuation operation in Kabul, described Friday by Joe Biden as “one of the most difficult in history,” has been mobilizing planes from around the world since Sunday, in chaotic conditions, to evacuate diplomats, other foreigners and Afghans fleeing a country that has fallen into the hands of the Taliban through the airport of the Afghan capital.
The United States, which plans to evacuate more than 30,000 Americans and Afghan civilians through its bases in Kuwait and Qatar, has already evacuated more than 13,000 people since operations began on August 14, the U.S. president said Friday.
But Biden said he could not guarantee the “final outcome” of the evacuation operation in Kabul, one of the “most difficult in history” at the end of a 20-year war in Afghanistan.
– Nato concerned about airport access difficulties
Nato on Friday called on the Taliban to allow evacuees to leave Afghanistan and for the organization’s member countries to remain in “close cooperation” on evacuation operations.
“We have more planes (available for evacuations) than passengers (ready to board), because it is an increasingly difficult challenge to get these people to the airport,” said Atlantic Alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg.
If thousands of people have already been evacuated, the Taliban are now accused of tracking down and arresting Afghans who have worked for NATO, and of restricting access to the airport.
“At your own risk”
A Czech military pilot returning from Kabul described the difficult conditions of air rotations with Afghanistan, with no real air traffic control, no local supply of kerosene and dangerous takeoffs.
German civilian shot and wounded
A German civilian was shot on his way to the airport, but his life is not in danger and he will be evacuated, German government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said.
Berlin plans to deploy two helicopters to secure evacuations and possibly assist individuals in “dangerous situations” or remote locations. More than 1,600 people have been brought to safety so far by the German military, according to the German government.
The Italian Defense Ministry said Friday night that about 1,000 Afghans had been evacuated to Italy in the past five days, and that more Afghans were waiting to be evacuated at Kabul airport.
An aircraft that took 103 Afghans on transfer to Kuwait will arrive at the Roman airport of Fiumicino overnight. In addition, two military aircraft will soon take off from Kabul to Kuwait, where the Afghans will be transferred to a Boeing for Italy.
The British government said it has been able to evacuate 1,615 people since Saturday, including 399 Britons, 320 diplomatic staff and 402 Afghans.
Austria, which has no evacuation facilities of its own, has managed to evacuate two of its citizens, while 85 other Austrians and Afghans living in Austria and seeking to escape remain stranded.
Belgium has scheduled four flights on Friday to evacuate people from Kabul.
Spain has also made an effort: 110 people were evacuated by military plane to Dubai, then by airliner to the military base in Torrejón de Ardoz (north-east of Madrid). They are mainly Afghan employees of the Spanish Embassy and their families. All Spanish nationals have already been repatriated.
This military base, visited on Friday by the two highest EU leaders, Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, serves as a reception center for Afghan employees of EU institutions exfiltrated from Kabul.
Poland to evacuate Afghans linked to Nato
Poland will be responsible for the evacuation operation of 300 Afghan citizens who have been working with NATO in recent years, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said.
In addition, 130 evacuees from Afghanistan have already arrived in Poland and another 100 are expected to arrive on Friday night, according to the government.
All Polish citizens who contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been evacuated.
Canadian aircraft rotations
Two Canadian military aircraft will rotate into Kabul to repatriate Canadian citizens, permanent residents and Afghan nationals, National Defence said Thursday night.
“Now that the airport is back under U.S. and international control, we are able to send Canadian military aircraft on a regular basis to