The return of the Taliban

Most of Europe, including Spain, ends evacuation mission in Afghanistan

The United States warns that the risk of attacks on Kabul airport continues after the terrorist attacks on Thursday

4 min
Evacuats Afghans in Torrejón de Ardoz

BarcelonaSpain has concluded this morning the evacuation of people from Afghanistan, the day after the terrorist attacks on Kabul airport. An A400M aircraft arrived in Dubai from the Afghan capital at 7.20 am, and a second plane was scheduled to land at 8.20 am. With these two flights the Spanish evacuation of Afghan collaborators and their families concludes. The last 81 Spaniards who were still in Afghanistan, including military and embassy staff, 4 Portuguese military, and 83 Afghan collaborators -14 from Spain, 19 from Portugal and 50 from NATO- are also returning in the two planes. Their arrival at the Torrejón base, on an Air Europa flight, is scheduled for 16:45.

Throughout the operation, the Spanish armed forces will have evacuated a total of 1,898 Afghan aid workers and their families, from Spain and other countries such as the United States and Portugal, the European Union, the UN, NATO, and the staff of the Spanish embassy in Kabul. The vast majority, 1,658, have been Afghan collaborators with Spain and their families, 36 EU aid workers, 50 NATO aid workers, 19 from Portugal and one from the UN. "Spain will not leave the Afghan people alone. We remain committed to the defense of human rights and freedom to the country, looking for ways to help evacuate the maximum number of people who have collaborated with Spain and the international community", said the Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez, without giving further details. This morning he returned to chair the inter-ministerial working group created expressly for the crisis in Afghanistan, and at noon he will appear at a press conference.

The operation ends this afternoon with the arrival of the last planes to the military air base of Torrejón de Ardoz, converted into a reception center at the European Union level. In total, there will have been 17 rotations of A400M Dubai-Kabul-Dubai flights, ten Air Europa Dubai-Torrejón flights and one A400M Dubai-Torrejón. Last Saturday, Sánchez, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, and the President of the European Council Charles Michel visited the facilities. In a matter of a few days an infrastructure was set up with capacity for about 1,000 people so that the evacuees could stay a maximum of 72 hours before being distributed to other countries or in shelters of the state network in different autonomous communities. Up to 121 have ended up in Catalonia.

Last British and Norwegian flights

In addition to Spain, most of the European allies of the United States plan to conclude this Friday (if they have not already done so) their respective evacuation operations. This is the case of the United Kingdom, which has announced that in the next few hours it will remove around a thousand civilians from the country, and that from then on it will only evacuate its military personnel. The British forces had set up their evacuation request processing centre at the Baron Hotel, located near the airport and very close to where one of the explosions occurred on Thursday. As of early this morning, however, no more requests are being processed. The only people the UK will take out of the country, then, are those who have already managed to enter the airport and are about to embark.

"I am deeply saddened that not everyone has been able to be evacuated during this process", said British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who admitted that between 800 and 1,100 Afghan collaborators who were eligible to be taken out of the country will not have been able to leave. There are also, according to him, about 100 to 150 British citizens who have voluntarily decided to stay in Afghanistan. According to Wallace, the British armed forces will destroy or leave some of their equipment on Afghan territory in order to make more space on planes to evacuate people. In total, the United Kingdom has taken 13,700 people out of Afghanistan.

Another country that will no longer evacuate anyone from Afghanistan is Norway, which has ended its mission with the takeoff of two flights early Friday morning. The first, with 128 passengers, has already arrived in Oslo, and the second will arrive in the next few hours, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "The operation is terminated after yesterday's horrific attack, which cost so many lives. We regret that it is not possible to help all those who wanted it", said the Scandinavian country's foreign minister, Ine Eriksen Søreide, who promised to look for other means to help Norwegian citizens and Afghan collaborators who were unable to flee. Throughout the operation, Norway has evacuated 1,098 people from Afghanistan in 13 flights.

France, for its part, had initially announced that it would end the evacuations this Friday, but European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune has left the door open to extending them a few more hours. "The operations will end soon", he said, but added that "they can go beyond tonight".

Many other countries, such as Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Hungary or Canada, had already announced Thursday, hours before the attacks, that they had completed the evacuation work or would do so in the coming hours. Australia did so this morning

Risc of more attacks

Meanwhile, thousands of people are still crowded around the Kabul airport in the hope of being able to get on a plane that will take them out of the country, despite the fact that the chances of doing so are increasingly slim and despite the risk of repeated terrorist attacks like the one that took place on Thursday. General Frank McKenzie, director of the central command of the United States, has explained that the American armed forces are on alert for the possibility of new attacks perpetrated by the Islamic State, not only in the form of suicide bombers, but also by missile or car bombs. "We are doing everything we can to be prepared", he said.