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India Closely Monitoring Situation in Afghanistan, Non-essential Staff to be Brought Back from Embassy in Kabul

Taliban fighters record a message after seizing Pul-e- Khumri, capital of Baghlan province, Afghanistan. (Image via Reuters)

Taliban fighters record a message after seizing Pul-e- Khumri, capital of Baghlan province, Afghanistan. (Image via Reuters)

Visas will be definitely be given to local embassy staff and their families so that they can come to India, and stay safe amid the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.

The Indian government is closely monitoring the situation in Afghanistan, top sources told News18 on Saturday. Non-essential staff will be brought back in the coming days from the Indian Embassy in Kabul, but no call has been taken on diplomats yet.

Visa will be given to all Afghan nationals, on a case-to-case basis, irrespective of religion, sources said.

Visas will be definitely be given to local embassy staff and their families so that they can come to India, and stay safe amid the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.

News18 had earlier reported that Taliban have reached a district of Kabul, 10 kms away from the main city.

Afghan officials said that Taliban has launched major attack on large northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif defended by powerful former warlords. Munir Ahmad Farhad, a spokesman for the provincial governor in northern Balkh province, says the Taliban attacked the city from several directions early Saturday. There was no immediate word on casualties.

India had on Tuesday begun evacuating its staff from Mazar-e-Sharif and advised its citizens in Afghanistan to make immediate travel arrangements to return home before commercial air services are discontinued in view of the rapidly escalating violence by the Taliban in several provinces there.

The Taliban is reportedly just 50 kilometres away from Kabul. Pul-e-Alam, the Loghar province capital and a city close to the capital, fell to the insurgents yesterday. While the United States is preparing to airlift thousands of people a day out of the capital, the country’s Defense Department has said that Kabul does not face an “imminent threat” from the Taliban but the insurgents are seeking to isolate the capital amid rapid gains elsewhere in Afghanistan.

The Taliban’s social media is awash with videos of Taliban fighters seizing weapons caches, the majority supplied by Western powers. Footage of Afghan soldiers surrendering in the northern city of Kunduz shows army vehicles loaded with heavy weapons and mounted with artillery guns safely in the hands of the insurgent rank and file.

The first US Marines leading the evacuations landed at the civilian airport in Kabul. The scale and speed of the onslaught has shocked Afghans and the US-led alliance that poured billions into the country after toppling the Taliban following the September 11 attacks nearly 20 years ago.

In the wake of insurgents’ rapid advance, the US embassy has also ordered staff to get rid of sensitive material that could be used for Taliban propaganda as the insurgents rapidly advanced in Afghanistan. In a memorandum to staff, a facility manager at the sprawling embassy directed employees to incinerators and other disposal sites for documents and equipment. “Please also include items with embassy or agency logos, American flags or items which could be misused in propaganda efforts,” the memo said.

Meanwhile, a source told News18 that warlord and former governor of Herat Ismail Khan along with other political detainees have been released by Taliban. The insurgents had detained Khan and some other officials of the Kabul administration along with two helicopters on Friday.

British Defence Minister Ben Wallace said Friday that the hasty pullout, which London followed after Biden ordered the withdrawal of the larger US contingent, had been “a mistake”. Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to “not turn our backs on Afghanistan” but acknowledged that outside powers had limited power to impose a solution.

Pro-Taliban social media accounts have boasted of the vast spoils of war captured by the insurgents, posting photos of armoured vehicles, heavy weapons, and even a drone seized by their fighters at abandoned military bases.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres renewed calls for a diplomatic solution and said he was “deeply disturbed” by accounts of poor treatment of women in areas seized by the Taliban, who imposed an ultra-austere brand of Islam on Afghanistan during their 1996-2001 rule.

“It is particularly horrifying and heartbreaking to see reports of the hard won rights of Afghan girls and women being ripped away,” Guterres said.

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first published:August 14, 2021, 07:28 IST