EU foreign ministers will hold emergency talks via videolink Tuesday (17 August) on the situation in Afghanistan as European nations scramble to evacuate personnel from the country, officials said.
Member states and the EU executive in Brussels are frantically trying to pull their foreign and Afghan staff out of Kabul amid fears of reprisals after the Taliban’s takeover.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the return of the Taliban to power as “particularly dramatic and terrible”.
“It is terrible for the millions of Afghans who had worked for a freer society and who, with the support of the Western community, have focused on democracy, on education, on women’s rights,” she said.
It was also devastating for the loved ones of soldiers who paid with their lives in the NATO operation, she said.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday said that Afghanistan should not become again the “sanctuary of terrorism” that it was until the US-led invasion two decades ago, after the Taliban regained control of the country.
“This is key for international security and peace… we will do everything for Russia, the United States and Europe to cooperate efficiently as our interests are the same,” Macron said in a televised address from his summer residence.
He described the situation as an “important challenge for our own security” and a “fight against a common enemy of terrorism”.
“Our actions will above all be aimed at fighting actively against Islamist terrorism in all its forms,” said Macron.
He said the European Union would set up an initiative to thwart the large migrant flows now expected from the country, cracking down on illegal people smuggling rings that risk emerging.
France, Germany and other EU countries would put together a response that was “robust, coordinated and united” to prevent irregular migration by harmonising criteria and showing European solidarity.
“We must anticipate and protect ourselves against significant irregular migratory flows that would endanger the migrants and risk encouraging trafficking of all kinds,” he said.
“Following latest developments in Afghanistan, and after intense contacts with partners in the past days and hours, I decided to convene an extraordinary VTC (video teleconference) of EU Foreign Ministers tomorrow afternoon for a first assessment,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted Monday.
“Afghanistan stands at a crossroad. Security and wellbeing of its citizens, as well as international security are at play.”
EU officials have been pleading with the bloc’s 27 capitals to give visas to Afghan workers at the bloc’s mission in Kabul and their families, estimated to number around 500, European diplomats said. The European Commission has no power to issue visas on its own behalf.
Diplomats said member states now appeared to be pledging enough visas to cover the EU’s staff, including local Afghan hires, but the question was how to get them out of the country given chaos at the airport.
Individual European countries were also scrambling to fly out their nationals and Afghan employees as crowds mobbed the airport in Kabul frantic to board departing planes.
The Pentagon said all military and civilian flights were halted at the airport because of the crowds of civilians who surged out onto the runways.
“US military forces are on the scene working alongside Turkish and other international troops to clear the area of people. We do not know how long this will take,” spokesman John Kirby said.