As the Taliban takes over Afghanistan and advances through the capital, nations are quickly mobilizing to evacuate diplomatic staff in Kabul.
Countries including the United States and Britain, which had relatively large numbers of troops in Afghanistan since the start of the war in 2001, are evacuating people from the fortified Green Zone, where embassies are located, and reducing their numbers to a small core of diplomats. Others are repatriating staff members and shuttering their embassies altogether.
The United States
United States personnel at the U.S. Embassy were being relocated to the Kabul airport Sunday to “ensure they can operate safely and securely” as the Taliban advanced on the city, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told ABC News.
A security alert sent out several hours later warned of reports that the airport was taking fire and instructed U.S. citizens to shelter in place.
Earlier Sunday, the Associated Press reported that helicopters had landed at the embassy and armored diplomatic vehicles were seen leaving the area around the compound. Smoke rose from the embassy’s roof as diplomats burned sensitive documents, the AP reported, citing anonymous U.S. military officials.
The U.S. is sending in troops to aid evacuation efforts, and plans to keep a core team of diplomats in Kabul, although that could change depending on security assessments.
Citing the deterioration of the security situation, Germany closed its embassy in Kabul on Sunday, Reuters reported.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas decided to move embassy staff to the Kabul airport, and Germany is accelerating its efforts to evacuate citizens and Afghans who helped the German government, according to Reuters.
Britain has also announced it would significantly reduce its staff. The British Defense Ministry said Thursday that it would fly about 600 troops into Afghanistan to help with evacuations.
The British ambassador will be airlifted from Afghanistan by Monday evening, the Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported.
Canada has suspended its diplomatic operations in Kabul and Canadian personnel “are now safely on their way back to Canada,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement Sunday. The statement urged all Canadians still in Afghanistan to leave immediately.
Pakistan, which shares a long border with Afghanistan, is working to fly Pakistani nationals and other groups to Pakistan, the country’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Mansoor Ahmad Khan, wrote on Twitter on Saturday.
“We are also facilitating request of foreign missions, international organizations & media outlets for temporary relocation of their staff to Pakistan,” he wrote.
Khan said last week that Pakistan’s consulates in Afghanistan would remain open.
The Netherlands has moved its embassy to a site close to the airport as it works to evacuate Afghan interpreters and local staff, Reuters reported Sunday. The Dutch Defense Ministry also sent a military plane to Kabul to help fly remaining personnel out of the country — but embassy functions were still operating.
Switzerland does not have an embassy in Kabul. On Friday, Swiss State Secretary Livia Leu said all Federal Department of Foreign Affairs employees in Kabul would be removed.
On Saturday, the Czech Republic announced that its two diplomats in Kabul would be leaving.
Denmark is temporarily closing its Kabul embassy, Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said on Friday. The country is coordinating its evacuations with Norway, which shares a compound with the Danish Embassy.
Norway also made the decision to close its embassy and evacuate its diplomats.
Sweden will evacuate its embassy staff in Afghanistan by Monday, Foreign Affairs Minister Ann Linde said Sunday, according to CNN.
Australia closed its Kabul embassy in May, as the Taliban offensive was beginning to make strides and other countries were already reducing their diplomatic presence.
Spain said Friday that due to “the advance of Taliban forces in their march towards Kabul,” it would evacuate its remaining citizens and Afghan staffers who had helped the country.