Poland becomes first European country to halt Afghan evacuations

Marcin Przydacz, Polish deputy foreign minister, said ‘we cannot risk the lives of our diplomats and of our soldiers any longer’

Eleanor Sly
Thursday 26 August 2021 13:18
<p>US troops are due to leave Afghanistan on 31 August  </p>

US troops are due to leave Afghanistan on 31 August

Poland has become the first country in Europe to end its evacuations from Afghanistan, making it one of the first Western countries to put an end to operations helping people leave the country following the Taliban takeover.

Marcin Przydacz, a Polish deputy foreign minister, said that Poland had evacuated its last group, reasoning that the lives of Polish soldiers and diplomats could not continue to be risked.

He explained: “We cannot risk the lives of our diplomats and of our soldiers any longer.”

Mr Przydacz has said that a number of Polish troops will remain in Afghanistan for a short time to wrap up operations.

During its evacuation programme, Poland used over a dozen planes to carry hundreds of evacuees to Warsaw, some of whom later travelled on to other countries.

US president Joe Biden declared on Tuesday that the US would stick to their original plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by 31 August, with the Taliban suggesting that they would not let Afghans be evacuated from the country past next Tuesday.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, told a news conference in Kabul that the US must stick to the 31 August deadline, adding “after that we won’t let Afghans be taken out” on evacuation flights.

Meanwhile, Mr Biden has warned of the imminent threat of a terrorist attack on Kabul airport. He said: “Every day we’re on the ground is another day that we know Isis-K is seeking to target the airport and attack both us and allied forces and innocent civilians.”

The US president added that although the Taliban is currently cooperating, “we run a serious risk of it breaking down as time goes on.”

Late on Wednesday the US Embassy warned US citizens who were at three airport gates in Kabul that they should leave immediately because of a threat to security.

Meanwhile, Australia, Britain and New Zealand all told their citizens on Thursday morning not to go to Kabul airport, due to a “very high threat of a terrorist attack.”

European allies have pressed for an extension to the 31 August deadline, for practical purposes, but will have to end their evacuation efforts prior to when US troops leave early next week.

Several countries have given no indication of when they might end their evacuation operations, although some have said they fear they will not be able to get the many thousands of Afghans who helped their forces out in time.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, said on Wednesday that Germany will continue to evacuate people from Afghanistan for as long as it is responsible to do so. She went on to suggest that this may continue after the deadline expires.

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