Taoiseach 'deeply concerned' by situation in Afghanistan as UN security council meets

The UN security council, of which Ireland is a member, is meeting to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, before a meeting of the EU's foreign affairs council on Tuesday.
Taoiseach 'deeply concerned' by situation in Afghanistan as UN security council meets

Taoiseach Michel Martin has said he is "deeply concerned by the unfolding situation in Afghanistan".

On Sunday, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani fled the country as Taliban forces entered the capital, Kabul virtually unopposed causing citizens to flood to the city's airport attempting to escape the country.

According to the Minister for Foreign Affairs on Monday morning, 15 Irish nationals are looking to leave Afghanistan. All commercial flights into and out of Kabul airport have been halted, so efforts are now being made to coordinate with other EU countries, the US and the UK to try and evacuate the Irish nationals, Simon Coveney said.

In a statement on Monday afternoon, Mr Martin said the "pace of developments" in Afghanistan has "taken many by surprise".

"I fully endorse the call from UN secretary general António Guterres from the Taliban to exercise the utmost restraint," the Taoiseach said.

"Protecting lives, meeting humanitarian needs and respecting people’s human rights are paramount.

"All parties, including the Taliban, are obliged to, and must, respect international humanitarian law," he added.

Mr Martin called on the international community to "play its full part" in providing humanitarian aid and facilitating refugees, adding: "Ireland will participate fully in these efforts."

A number of Government departments, including Foreign Affairs, Justice, and Children are coordinating the country's response to the crisis.

The UN security council, of which Ireland is a member, is currently meeting to discuss the situation, before a meeting of the EU's foreign affairs council on Tuesday.

"We are also providing support to the small number of Irish citizens currently in Afghanistan," Mr Martin said, adding he is in continuous contact with Mr Coveney and will "continue to monitor the situation closely over the coming days".

Kabul airport

Thousands of civilians desperate to flee Afghanistan thronged Kabul airport on Monday after the Taliban seized the capital, prompting the U.S. military to suspend evacuations as the United States came under mounting criticism at home over its pullout.

TOPSHOT-AFGHANISTAN-CONFLICT Afghans crowd at the airport as US soldiers stand guard in Kabul on Monday. Photo: Shakib Rahmani/AFP via Getty Images

Crowds converged on the airport seeking to escape, including some clinging to a U.S. military transport plane as it taxied on the runway, according to footage posted by a media company. Seven people were reportedly killed in the chaos.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled on Sunday as the Islamist militants entered Kabul virtually unopposed, saying he wanted to avoid bloodshed.

The United States and other foreign powers have rushed to fly out diplomatic and other staff but the United States temporarily halted all evacuation flights to clear people from the airfield, a US defence official told Reuters.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, did not say how long the pause would last.

TOPSHOT-AFGHANISTAN-CONFLICT A volunteer carries an injured man as other people can be seen waiting at the Kabul airport in Kabul on Monday. Photo: Wakil Kohsar AFP via Getty Images

It was not immediately clear how the people died at the airport. A US official said troops had fired in the air to deter people trying to force their way on to a military flight taking US diplomats and embassy staff out of the city.

One witness, waiting for a flight out for more than 20 hours, said it was unclear if the five had been shot or killed in a stampede. US officials at the airport were not immediately available for comment.

'No one shall be harmed'

Suhail Shaheen, a spokesperson for the Taliban, said in a message on Twitter that their fighters were under strict orders not to harm anyone.

"Life, property and honour of no one shall be harmed but must be protected by the mujahideen," he said.

It took the Taliban just over a week to seize control of the whole country after a lightning sweep https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/talibans-rapid-advance-across-afghanistan-2021-08-10 that ended in Kabul as government forces https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/taliban-surge-exposes-failure-us-efforts-build-afghan-army-2021-08-15, trained for years and equipped by the United States and others at a cost of billions of dollars, melted away.

US officers had long worried that corruption would undermine the resolve of badly paid, ill-fed and erratically supplied front-line soldiers.

Al Jazeera broadcast footage of what it said were Taliban commanders in the presidential palace with dozens of fighters.

Mohammad Naeem, spokesman for the Taliban's political office, told Al Jazeera TV the form of Afghanistan's new government would be made clear soon. He said the Taliban did not want to live in isolation and called for peaceful international relations.

Moderate face

The militants sought to project a more moderate face promising to respect women's rights and protect both foreigners and Afghans.

But many Afghans fear the Taliban will return to past harsh practices. During their 1996-2001 rule, women could not work and punishments such as public stoning, whipping and hanging were administered.

"Everyone is worried," a former government employee now in hiding in Kabul said. "They're not targeting people yet but they will, that's the reality. Maybe in two or three weeks, that's why people are fighting to get out now."

Both the United Nations and the United States said last week they had received reports that Taliban fighters were executing surrendering government soldiers.

The Pentagon on Sunday authorized another 1,000 troops to help evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghans who worked for them, expanding its security presence on the ground to almost 6,000 troops.

A US State Department spokesperson said that all embassy personnel, including Ambassador Ross Wilson, had been transferred to Kabul airport. - Additional reporting: Reuters


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