In the midst of the harsh winter of Kabul during the height of the Cold War, we received a “final warning” of fine stationery. “We must advise you that you should leave Afghanistan without delay while regular flights are still available,” the British Chargé d’Affaires advised.
Eleven days later, in the snow of January 30, 1989, we saw the Chargé d’Affaires of the United States solemnly lower the Star-Spangled Banner at a simple ceremony with political significance. The last Soviet troops withdrew within a few weeks, ending their disastrous decade of Afghan involvement. The outflow of Western missions was intended to rattle the embarrassed Moscow-backed government.
Britain has also closed the door to the magnificent white plaster compound that was once hailed as “the best in Asia.”
“The British minister felt that our embassy staff wanted to continue working, but they had no choice but to follow,” said the former British ambassador, then Afghan clerk. Stephen Evans recalls. UK Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Both Washington and London promised to return soon, but their mission remained closed until the US-led aggression defeated the Taliban in 2001.
Now that almost 20 years of NATO military missions end with the withdrawal of foreign troops, the question of staying or going is back at the top of the agenda of the envoy.
“Unless there is an overwhelming safety reason, I definitely don’t want to close the embassy right now and send a similar signal,” said the soaring blast wall and behind the sharp coil of barbed wire. Evans emphasizes in a widespread emotion. Diplomatic and aid missions, and numerous other buildings in the capital.
But the faster-than-expected pace of US-led withdrawal, the fall of the district to the Taliban at an alarming rate and scale, is unpredictable, not to mention the fear of a highly infectious variant of Covid-19. Added a big rush to this mix.
Evacuation plans are constantly being updated, staff numbers are steadily reduced (due to both Covid and security risks), and several bags are packed just in case. There are calm days and worried days.
“The only concern our capital is now is security,” laments a European diplomat. “For the past few months in Kabul, we’ve all been talking about security because we’re investing and wanting to stay here.”
The last Belgian diplomat bid on adieu this week, and Australians closed the store in May. The French are almost gone and the British are always evaluating the situation like everyone else.
Afghanistan supporting anxious envoys, interpreters translating languages and cultures for foreign troops, and many vulnerable Afghanistan surviving in cities suffering from constant power outages and endless deterioration are embassies’ We see every move as a precursor. What’s coming
“If the country is repeatedly told that it is destined to fail, what hope does a perplexed Afghan have to implement an alternative?” Former Deputy Minister of Commerce, an executive at a major telecommunications company in Kabul. Ask Muqaddesa Yourish.
There was some turmoil among Afghans when the Australian government announced that it would close the Kabul embassy in May, but expressed hope that the move would be temporary. This time, as a sign of the times, it was a tweet from the British Embassy that urged all British people in Afghanistan to leave “as soon as possible”, not a letter.
“Unfortunately, it’s an international echo chamber, and the world seems to project the guilt of withdrawal by predicting the worst civil war for us,” Yourish adds. Afghans are also worried about the threat of an intensifying war.
Once again, the British are watching over the Americans. Most foreign delegations do. The United States, like many other places, says it plans to keep hundreds of troops on the ground to secure an embassy.
Still, there are risks. This week, a Taliban spokesman reiterated to the BBC that the remaining presence of foreign troops would be considered “occupying forces.” The Taliban argue that this is a breach of the US Taliban agreement that paved the way for this withdrawal.
“During negotiations with the United States, all these topics were brought into discussion, and eventually the United States agreed to withdraw all troops, advisors, trainers, etc. from the country,” said Taliban spokesman Suhail. Shaheen asked about this issue.
The Taliban are keen on increasing international legitimacy and are also on the lookout for embassies. When EU’s new Afghan envoy Thomas Niclason raised security concerns to Doha-based Taliban leaders last month, they said their diplomatic and aid missions in the Afghan capital would be protected within hours. Made a statement.
But not everyone is convinced that what one Western diplomat called “words from Doha’s sophisticated diplomats” will be respected by all Taliban field commanders. And the Taliban want the world’s envoys to stay in Kabul, but they don’t want them to do their job-supporting a powerful government.
Several foreign delegations, now located outside the vast high security facility known as the Green Zone, are planning to move inside the gate inside the gate inside the gate. Norway has agreed to continue operating an important field hospital used by diplomats and aid workers until next spring. By that time, it is expected that a private hospital will be established. Most important is the international airport, which is also essential for Afghans. In the worst case, this acts as an evacuation route that no one wants to see.
Kabul International Airport is currently protected by Turkish and US troops under NATO’s legal umbrella. It is hoped that Turkey will continue this mission through a bilateral agreement with the Government of Afghanistan.
But even in this eleventh hour, difficult discussions with Ankara are intertwined with political, security, and legal issues, not to mention the stubborn Taliban edict. Nato officials have expressed confidence that the deal is possible.
As a result, most embassies are now trying to signal that they are still in place.
“The US embassy in Kabul is open and will remain open,” he stressed a post on their Twitter account when media coverage began to surface an evacuation plan with increased coverage.
“The embassy remains in Kabul,” emphasizes the Western diplomat. “But we are in a sensitive time and we monitor the situation every day. The safety of the embassy staff is a top priority.”
“The embassy of note is the United Kingdom,” said another diplomat in Kabul. “It’s not just a Western mission. Even the Chinese ambassador says he wants to increase dialogue on security issues.”
The British compound just inside the green zone is larger than some missions, but much closer in size to many other missions. So it looks like a bell.
And all eyes-Afghanistan and foreigners-are paying attention to the rapidly changing security situation throughout the country.
“Many of the areas taken by the Taliban are strategically irrelevant, but important for promotional purposes,” said Tamim Assy, a former Deputy Defense Minister of Afghanistan, who now heads the Institute for War and Peace in Kabul. “The next season of battle will be a battle for the city,” he points out.
In conflicts where stories about what is happening on earth can be as important as events, there is now an effort among envoys to calm down and keep it as hard as possible.