UK's Boris Johnson to host virtual G7 meeting on Afghanistan
Taliban has declared the war in Afghanistan as over, following the successful invasion of Kabul on Sunday. Nations worldwide have reacted to the alarming news.
Western governments are discussing how to handle the situation in Kabul where thousands of civilians desperate to flee Afghanistan have descended on the airport after the Taliban seized the capital. The United Nations Security Council had an emergency meeting on Monday, where they called for the establishment of a new Afghan government.
More than 60 countries issued a joint statement saying Afghans and international citizens who want to leave Afghanistan must be allowed to depart and added airports and border crossings must remain open, the US State Department said late Sunday.
The US government and more than 60 other countries including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Qatar and the United Kingdom said in a joint statement that "those in positions of power and authority across Afghanistan bear responsibility - and accountability - for the protection of human life and property, and for the immediate restoration of security and civil order."
It added "the Afghan people deserve to live in safety, security and dignity. We in the international community stand ready to assist them."
In addition, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the situation in Afghanistan by phone and agreed to continue talks with China, Pakistan and the United Nations, Russia said on Monday.
The Russian foreign ministry said Blinken informed Lavrov about the actions the US administration is now undertaking, particularly about the evacuation of US embassy staff and solving acute humanitarian issues. Lavrov told Blinken about Russia's view on the situation in Afghanistan and its contacts with political powers there in order to secure stability along with law and order.
"The heads of foreign services agreed to continue consultations with representatives of China, Pakistan, other countries concerned and the UN to facilitate the creation of grounds for an inclusive inter-Afghan dialog in the new conditions," the ministry said.
Here is how some other countries responded.
US President Joe Biden will return to the White House from Camp David on Monday to deliver remarks on Afghanistan, the White House said.
The Pentagon authorized an additional 1,000 troops to help with the evacuation from Kabul, a US official said on Sunday, bringing the total number of troops expected in Afghanistan temporarily to 6,000. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the additional 1,000 troops would come from the 82nd Airborne Division, which had already been on standby.
The US State Department confirmed early Monday morning that all embassy personnel were safely evacuated and are now located at Kabul Airport.
The United States is unlikely to change its military strategy in Kabul unless the Taliban impact the evacuation of the embassy.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Afghan forces have simply been unable to defend the country, that it was not in the interests of the United States to remain in Afghanistan.
Blinken said Washington had invested billions of dollars over four US administrations in Afghan government forces, giving them advantages over the Taliban, but they have failed to beat back the Taliban's advance.
"The fact of the matter is we’ve seen that force has been unable to defend the country," Blinken said. "And that has happened more quickly than we anticipated."
Blinken stated that the US told the Taliban that there would be a "swift and decisive response" if it interfered with US personnel.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson intends to host a virtual meeting of G7 leaders to tackle the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and has stepped up efforts to evacuate UK nationals and others from Kabul.
Johnson spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday to agree how the two countries could work together to recognise any future Afghan government and in trying to prevent a humanitarian and refugee crisis, his office said.
The G7 call is expected to happen in coming days, while the two leaders also agreed that their countries should work together at the UN Security Council, including on a possible joint resolution.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Western partners would also look at imposing sanctions and withholding aid if the Taliban failed to uphold human rights or allowed the country to become a base for terrorism again.
"It is not what we wanted," Raab said. "But we have to deal with a new reality, we're making it clear with our partners, with all the means at our disposal, that we will hold the Taliban to account to its commitments to have a new start in Afghanistan."
Raab said everyone had been surprised by the scale and speed of the takeover and British troops were now working to bring home British nationals and those Afghan citizens who had worked for the British army there.
Raab later added he and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the need for international coordination to prevent Afghanistan from being used as a base for terrorist groups.
"Discussed the need for international coordination to prevent Afghanistan being used as a base for terrorist groups," Raab said on Twitter, adding that a wider approach was needed to ease the plight of the Afghan people.
Raab also said that US and UK "priority is ensuring the safety of our nationals & those who supported our work over the last 20 years."
London had initially committed 600 soldiers to help the evacuation but that has now been increased to 900 in Kabul.
Further personnel would be deployed in the region and be able to move to Afghanistan quickly if needed, the Ministry of Defence said. Personnel will also be ready to deploy at short notice from Britain if required for defensive duties.
Britain's defense minister acknowledged on Monday that the Taliban are in control of Afghanistan and British forces are not going to return to fight the insurgents,
"I acknowledge that the Taliban are in control of the country," Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News. "I mean, you don't have to be a political scientist to spot that's where we're at." Asked if Britain and NATO would return to Afghanistan, Wallace said: "That's not on the cards... we're going to go back."
Britain's parliament will be recalled from its summer recess on Wednesday to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, it posted on Twitter on Sunday. "The Speaker has granted a request from the Government to recall the House at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday 18 August, in relation to the situation in Afghanistan," the House of Commons account tweeted.
Britain's ambassador to Afghanistan is still in Kabul and staff are doing all they can to enable Britons who wish to leave the country to do so, the Foreign Office in London said on Sunday, as the Taliban entered the Afghan capital.
Russia has set up working contacts with representatives of the new authorities in Afghanistan to ensure the safety of the Russian embassy in Kabul, the foreign ministry said on Monday. The ministry said the situation in Kabul was stabilizing and it called on all sides to refrain from violence.
Russia's foreign ministry said on Monday it hoped Afghanistan's new authorities would observe fundamental human rights, the RIA news agency reported. Russia has said it will retain a diplomatic presence in Kabul and hopes to develop ties with the Taliban, although it also says it is in no rush to recognize them as the country's rulers and will closely observe their behavior.
The Taliban on Sunday pledged to guarantee safety for the Russian embassy in Kabul.
"We have good relations with Russia and our policy, in general, is to ensure safe conditions for operations of the Russian and other embassies," TASS quoted a Taliban official as saying.
The Middle East
Saudi Arabia called on the Taliban and "all Afghan parties" on Monday to preserve lives and property, after the insurgents seized the capital Kabul.
A statement issued by the Saudi foreign ministry on Twitter added that the kingdom "stands with the choices that the Afghan people make without any interference," expressing hope that the situation in the central Asian state stabilizes as soon as possible.
Bahrain will initiate consultations with the other Gulf Arab monarchies regarding the situation in Afghanistan in its capacity as current chair of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the kingdom's government media office said on Monday.
"The council of ministers has tasked the foreign minister to coordinate and consult with the GCC states regarding the developments in Afghanistan, in the framework of Bahraini presidency" of the group which also includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman, it said on Twitter.
Qatar, which had hosted inconclusive Afghan peace talks, is so far the only GCC country to have commented on the situation since the Taliban took control of Kabul, calling for a peaceful transition of power and a comprehensive solution. Qatar said on Monday it was doing its utmost to help evacuate diplomats and foreign staff in international organizations seeking to leave Afghanistan.
The United Arab Emirates foreign ministry on Sunday said it was working on facilitating the evacuation of foreign diplomatic staff from Afghanistan through airports in the Gulf Arab state.
"We are monitoring developments around the situation in Afghanistan and are working closely with all the relevant authorities to ensure the safe operation of our services," an Emirates spokesperson said.
Saudi Arabia has evacuated all members of its diplomatic mission in Kabul, as the Taliban insurgents entered the Afghan capital on Sunday, state news agency SPA said.
"All members of the Kingdom's embassy in the Afghan capital, Kabul, have been evacuated, and they have arrived home," it said.
Islamist militants will seek to benefit from the turmoil in Afghanistan, said French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday, adding that France would do all it could to ensure Russia, the United States and Europe responded with a common purpose.
"Afghanistan must not become the haven for terrorists that it once was," Macron said in a national address.
"It is a challenge for peace and international stability, against a common enemy. We will do everything we can so that Russia, the United States and Europe can cooperate efficiently, because our interests are the same.
"The United Nations' security council will have to come up with a common and united answer."
There was a risk that a wave of migrants would sweep towards Europe, Macron said. France would continue to protect the most vulnerable and would play its part in an organized and fair international effort to share the burden, he added.
Armin Laschet, the CDU's chancellor candidate at the election, said Afghanistan is NATO's biggest fiasco since it was formed.
Germany's military needs a strong mandate to carry out an evacuation operation in Afghanistan, he added. Laschet said the mission was "one of the more dangerous" the Bundeswehr armed forces have had to undertake and called the situation in the Afghan capital following its rapid fall to the Taliban "completely unclear".
Germany must urgently evacuate up to 10,000 people from Afghanistan for whom its has responsibility, Chancellor Angela Merkel told party colleagues, warning that the fallout from the conflict will last for a very long time.
The remarks, made at a closed-door meeting of her Christian Democrat party on Monday and relayed by meeting participants, reflect growing concern about bloodshed in Afghanistan after the Taliban seized the capital and proclaimed peace.
"We are witnessing difficult times," Merkel said. "Now we must focus on the rescue mission."
Merkel said those needing evacuation included 2,500 Afghan support staff as well as human rights activists, lawyers and others whom the government sees as being at risk if they remained in the country, up to 10,000 altogether.
She also said Berlin should cooperate with countries bordering Afghanistan to support those fleeing now, adding: "This topic will keep us busy for a very long time."
Germany on Sunday shuttered its embassy in Kabul and prepared to send A400M military transport planes to Afghanistan to evacuate as many Germans and local Afghan helpers as possible after Taliban insurgents entered the Afghan capital.
"We are doing everything to enable our citizens and our former local staff to leave Afghanistan within the next days," German foreign minister Heiko Maas told journalists on Sunday.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Blinken on Monday that the hasty pullout of US troops from Afghanistan had a "serious negative impact," but pledged to work with Washington to promote stability in the country.
Thousands of civilians desperate to flee Afghanistan thronged Kabul airport's single runway on Monday after the Taliban seized the capital in the face of the US military drawdown there.
President Joe Biden blamed the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan on Afghan political leaders who fled the country and the unwillingness of the Afghan army to fight the militant group.
The US State Department said in a short statement that Blinken spoke with Wang about "the security situation and our respective efforts to bring US and PRC citizens to safety," using the acronym for the People's Republic of China.
It said Blinken had spoken separately to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Wang told Blinken the facts on the ground in Afghanistan proved that a foreign model could not be arbitrarily applied to a country with different cultural and historical conditions, according to a Chinese state media report.
"Using force and military means to resolve problems will just increase them. The lessons of this deserve serious reflection," China's state broadcaster CCTV cited Wang as saying.
Wang said that China was willing to communicate with Washington to help prevent a new civil war or humanitarian disaster after the "serious negative impact" of the United States' "hurried withdrawal" of troops.
"But the United States cannot on one hand actively seek to contain and suppress China and harm China's legitimate rights and interests, and on the other hand hope for China's cooperation," Wang said.
He also criticized the United States for removing the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) from its list of terrorist groups, saying it showed US double standards on counterterrorism.
Beijing has concerns that ETIM is active in neighboring Afghanistan and wants to create a separate state in China's western region of Xinjiang, where Chinese authorities have set up mass detention camps they say are aimed at vocational training to curb extremism.
The US government says ETIM no longer exists as a formal organization and is instead a broad label China uses to oppress a variety of Muslim ethnic groups, including Uyghurs.
Canada on Sunday said it was temporarily suspending its diplomatic operations in Kabul and that its personnel were on their way back home, according to a statement, as Taliban insurgents appeared within days of taking over the city.
"The situation in Afghanistan is rapidly evolving and poses serious challenges to our ability to ensure the safety and security of our mission," Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said in the statement. Canadian personnel "are now safely on their way back to Canada," he added.
India will help members of Afghanistan's tiny Sikh and Hindu community to come to India, the foreign ministry said on Monday. "We are in constant touch with the representatives of Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities. We will facilitate repatriation to India of those who wish to leave Afghanistan," foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said in a statement.
India invested millions of dollars in development projects in Afghanistan and Bagchi said the government stood by the Afghans who had partnered it in that task.
Italy is committed to protecting all Afghan citizens who assisted Rome's mission in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Monday.
In a statement, Draghi added that Rome was working with its European partners to find a solution to the crisis in Afghanistan which would protect human rights, particularly those of women.
Earlier on Monday, the first plane carrying Italian diplomats and some of their Afghan assistants flew into Rome from Kabul -- part of a massive international airlift underway after the Taliban swept into the Afghan capital.
The defense ministry said in a statement around 70 people were aboard the military plane. Italian media reported that the Italian ambassador to Kabul was on the flight along with roughly 20 Afghan citizens.
The Italian foreign ministry has said it is planning other such flights, but has not given any details.
The Netherlands has moved its embassy in Kabul to a location close to the city's international airport as The Hague moves quickly to evacuate its remaining Afghan translators and local staff, a spokesman for the foreign ministry said on Sunday.
Also on Sunday, the Dutch defense ministry said it had sent a military plane to Kabul as part of efforts to evacuate remaining personnel. The Dutch government says it will keep its Kabul embassy functions open as long as possible in light of the Taliban's rapid advances.
Turkey on Monday evacuated civilians and its citizens from Kabul on a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul, after the Taliban took control of the Afghan capital, in what some passengers described as a tense journey from the turmoil-hit country.
Thousands of civilians desperate to flee Afghanistan packed Kabul airport on Monday, prompting the US military temporarily to suspend evacuations as the United States came under mounting criticism at home over its pullout.
Dogan Ozluk, a visiting lecturer at the University of Kabul, said passengers had spent the night at the airport before being brought on the evacuation flight on Monday, while others said they had to wait up three hours on the plane as troops cleared the runway of civilians.
"We were scared that the plane would not take off and that we would have to return to chaos," said Senol Celik, a Turkish diplomatic mission staff member.
"We were scared of course, but we were sad for the people there," he told Reuters TV.
State broadcaster TRT Haber said 324 people had been brought to Istanbul from Kabul on the evacuation flight.
Albania and Kosovo have accepted a US request to temporarily take in Afghan refugees seeking visas to enter the United States, the country two countries said on Sunday.
In Tirana, Prime Minister Edi Rama Rama said US President Joe Biden's administration had asked fellow NATO member Albania to assess whether it could serve as a transit country for a number of Afghan refugees whose final destination is the United States.
"We will not say 'no', not just because our great allies ask us to, but because we are Albania," Rama said on Facebook.
Sources had told Reuters that Biden's administration had held discussions with such countries as Kosovo and Albania about protecting US-affiliated Afghans from Taliban reprisals until they completed the process of approval of their US visas.
In Kosovo, President Vjosa Osmani said the government had been in contact with the US authorities about housing Afghan refugees since mid-July.
"Without any hesitation and ... conditioning I gave my consent to that humanitarian operation," Osmani said on her Facebook account.
Osmani said Afghan refugees would be vetted by the US security authorities, and added they would stay in Kosovo until their documentation for US immigration visas was arranged.
NATO is maintaining its diplomatic presence in Kabul and helping to keep the city's airport running, the military alliance said on Sunday as Taliban insurgents entered the Afghan capital.
"NATO is helping keep Kabul airport open to facilitate and coordinate evacuations," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Twitter.
Stoltenberg said he had discussed the rapidly evolving situation in Afghanistan with Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the foreign ministers of Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands.
Taliban insurgents entered Kabul on Sunday and said they expected to take power within days.
A NATO official told Reuters the alliance was maintaining its diplomatic presence in Kabul. The official did not respond to questions on whether NATO planned to hold a crisis meeting to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.
"NATO is constantly assessing developments in Afghanistan," the official said, adding that the security of the alliance's personnel was paramount and NATO would continue to adjust as necessary.
After almost two decades, NATO this summer completed military operations in Afghanistan and withdrew most troops from the country.
The alliance still operates a diplomatic representation in Kabul. A NATO spokesperson on Friday declined to provide details on the representation, citing security concerns, in response to a Reuters request.
Headquartered in Brussels, NATO also serves as a forum to coordinate national measures in Afghanistan, such as the evacuation of citizens that was discussed by NATO ambassadors on Friday.