United States allies are reacting mutely to the Taliban’s victory march into the Afghan capital city of Kabul 20 years after a US-led invasion removed the militants from power, expressing concerns for civilians caught in the violence but falling short of pointing to the catastrophic failure of the longest war in US history.
In what appeared to be a US-orchestrated move, more than 60 countries issued a joint statement “saying Afghans and international citizens who want to leave Afghanistan must be allowed to depart and added that airports and border crossings must remain open,” the US State Department announced in a late Sunday statement.
“Those in positions of power and authority across Afghanistan bear responsibility - and accountability - for the protection of human life and property, and for the immediate restoration of security and civil order,” said the statement signed by the US government and its allies, including Britain, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Qatar.
A joint statement from the State Department and Pentagon after the Taliban entered the Afghan capital confirmed that the United States over the next 48 hours will "have expanded our security presence to nearly 6,000 troops, with a mission focused solely on facilitating these efforts and will be taking over air traffic control."
Other signatories to the statement, according to the State Department, include countries with little or no interest in Afghanistan, namely: Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden and Ukraine.
Separately, top US diplomat Antony Blinken echoed the same statement in a Twitter post that read, "The United States joins the international community in affirming that Afghans and international citizens who wish to depart must be allowed to do so. Roads, airports, and border crossing must remain open, and calm must be maintained."
Biden admits lost cause
US President Joe Biden also issued a statement following the fall of Kabul, saying, "One more year, or five more years, of US military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country. And an endless American presence in the middle of another country's civil conflict was not acceptable to me."
US State Department spokesman Ned Price declared late Sunday that all American embassy personnel in Kabul had been evacuated and are now located on the premises at Hamid Karzai International Airport, which he said is “secured by the US military.”
British PM rejects Taliban as Afghan government
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacted to the Kabul development by insisting on Sunday that nobody should bilaterally recognize the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan, claiming that there would clearly be a new administration in the country very soon.
“We don’t want anybody bilaterally recognizing the Taliban,” Johnson demanded as quoted in a Reuters report, calling on Western governments to work together on Afghanistan through mechanisms such as the United Nations and the US-led NATO military alliance.
“We want a united position amongst all the like-minded as far as we can get one so that we do whatever we can to prevent Afghanistan lapsing back into being a breeding ground for terror,” he further asserted.
Britain’s foreign minister Dominic Raab expressed “deep concerns” about the future of Afghanistan and called on the Taliban to end violence as they headed into the nation’s capital city.
“Shared my deep concerns about the future for Afghanistan with FM Qureshi,” Raab said in a Twitter post, referring to Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
NATO declares moves to keep Kabul airport open
The NATO alliance -- which also ended its 20-year military presence in Afghanistan after the US withdrawal announcement – also said on Sunday that it was maintaining its diplomatic presence in Kabul and helping to keep the city's airport running along with thousands of US troops.
"NATO is helping keep Kabul airport open to facilitate and coordinate evacuations," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg wrote in a Twitter post.
Stoltenberg further noted that he had discussed the Kabul situation with the British prime minister and the foreign ministers of Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands.
A NATO official was also cited as saying that the alliance was maintaining its diplomatic presence in Kabul.
"NATO is constantly assessing developments in Afghanistan," the official said, emphasizing that the security of the alliance's personnel was paramount and NATO would continue to adjust accordingly.
German military planes head to Kabul to evacuate citizens
Germany also closed its embassy in Kabul on Sunday and prepared to dispatch A400M military transport planes to Afghanistan to evacuate as many Germans and local Afghan helpers as possible.
"We are doing everything to enable our citizens and our former local staff to leave Afghanistan within the next days," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in Sunday press briefing.
German embassy staff have already been moved to a military part of Kabul airport, Maas also announced, noting that essential staff will remain there in the coming days to help with evacuations.
According to a person familiar with the matter, two German military aircraft will take evacuated people to Uzbekistan's capital Tashkent, Reuters reported. Maas had earlier stated only that they would go to a country neighboring Afghanistan.
From there, the people will be taken to Germany on board civilian charter aircraft, he added.
UN chief urges Taliban restraint
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also called on the Taliban and all other Afghan parties to exercise restraint in order to protect lives, expressing particular concern about the future of women and girls in Afghanistan.
"There continue to be reports of serious human rights abuses and violations in the communities most affected by the fighting," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric declared in a statement, noting that Guterres "is particularly concerned about the future of women and girls, whose hard-won rights must be protected."
"All abuses must stop. He calls on the Taliban and all other parties to ensure ... the rights and freedoms of all people are respected and protected," Dujarric added.
Guterres is due to brief the UN Security Council on Afghanistan on Monday.
This is while Afghanistan's UN ambassador, Ghulam Isaczai, was quoted by Reuters as saying, "The message I sent to the council today is to do everything to prevent further violence and ensure an orderly transition to a transitional government."
The United Nations has nearly 3,000 national staff and about 300 international staff on the ground in Afghanistan. On Friday, Dujarric said some staff had been relocated to Kabul but that none had been evacuated from the country.
Pope urges dialogue in Afghanistan
Pope Francis also reacted to Afghanistan’s developments on Sunday, calling for dialogue to end the conflict in the war-torn nation so that its people “can live in peace, security and reciprocal respect.”
"I join in the unanimous worry about the situation in Afghanistan. I ask you to pray along with me to the God of peace so that the din of weapons ends and that solutions can be found around a table of dialogue," Pope told pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter's Square during his noon address.
"Only this way can the martyred population of that country - men, women, elderly and children - return to their homes and live in peace and security in full reciprocal respect," he added.
Austrian FM concerned about refugee influx
Austria’s Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg also reacted to the latest developments in the Afghan capital by expressing fears about a potential refugee influx into his country.
"Conflict and instability in the region will sooner or later spill over to Europe and thus to Austria," he declared on Sunday during an aid conference to support Afghanistan's central Asian neighbors.
Similar concerns were also echoed by European Union Commissioner Margaritis Schinas, who went on Twitter to state, "The clock has run out on how long we can wait to adopt the complete overhaul of Europe's migration and asylum rules we need."
Nepal urges evacuation of 1,500 Nepalis in Afghanistan
Meanwhile, the government of Nepal, which has no diplomatic ties with Afghanistan, called on Sunday for the evacuation of an estimated 1,500 Nepalis working as security guards with embassies and with international aid groups in Afghanistan.
"We have formally written to embassies requesting them for the evacuation," Nepal Foreign Ministry spokesperson Sewa Lamsal said as quoted by Reuters.
Lamsal further added that the government has also set up a panel to determine the exact number of Nepalis working in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan, saying, "The government will make arrangements for their evacuation also."
Albania, Kosovo to host Afghan refugees per US demand
This is while Albania and Kosovo have reportedly accepted Washington’s request to temporarily take in Afghan refugees seeking visas to enter the US, officials of the two countries declared on Sunday.
In Tirana, Prime Minister Edi Rama Rama said Biden's administration had asked fellow NATO member Albania to assess whether it could serve as a transit country for a number of Afghan refugees whose final destination is the United States.
"We will not say 'No', not just because our great allies ask us to, but because we are Albania," Rama said on his Facebook page.
Media reports further cited sources as saying that Biden's administration had held discussions with countries such as Kosovo and Albania about protecting US-affiliated Afghans from Taliban reprisals until they completed the process of approval of their US visas.
In Kosovo, President Vjosa Osmani also stated that the government had been in contact with American authorities about housing Afghan refugees since mid-July.
"Without any hesitation and ... conditioning I gave my consent to that humanitarian operation," Osmani said on her Facebook account.
This is while hundreds of US troops are still stationed in Kosovo as “peacekeepers” more than two decades after the 1998-99 war with the then-Yugoslav military forces.
Pakistan says no plans to shut Kabul embassy
Moreover, Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesmen Zahid Hafez Chaudhry also expressed concerns about the developing events in neighboring Afghanistan but made clear that Islamabad did not intend to shutter its embassy in Kabul.
"We're concerned about the increasingly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan...We have not taken any decision to close our embassy," Chaudhry said in an interview with the local Geo News TV.