Over the last two weeks, thousands have converged in Kabul, desperate to leave the country as the Taliban take over the reigns of administration. But with the August 31 deadline looming, it would appear that not everyone will be leaving Afghanistan via the dwindling number of evacuation flights. A day after twin blasts ripped through Kabul, killing around 100 people including US Marines and injuring numerous others, several nations have announced the conclusion of their evacuation efforts.
Even as the US says that around 100,000 people have been evacuated over the past 12 days, leaders of various countries including New Zealand and the UK have admitted that they will be leaving behind some individuals. On Friday top officials from various nations also assured that they would continue to make efforts in the days to come (after the deadline).
While Afghanistan is no stranger to violence and bloodshed, the situation is somewhat different now. The horrific nature of the incident has shocked the world even as the US Pentagon braces for fresh attacks and the Taliban turn away vehicles approaching the airport.
All the gates of the Kabul airport were reportedly closed for some time on Friday, and evacuation flights resumed with a fresh sense of urgency and desperation. Kabul residents said several flights took off Friday morning, while footage shared by a local Tolo TV correspondent showed the anxious crowd outside the airport as large as ever.
As many as 1,000 Americans and tens of thousands more Afghans are struggling to leave in one of history's largest airlifts. It remains unclear how other nations stand it terms of un-evacuated individuals.
Several nations have now concluded or entered the last leg of their extrication efforts, in part to give the US time to wrap up its own operations before getting 5,000 of its troops out by Tuesday.
The UK says that it has entered the "final hours" of its evacuation process. The main British processing center for eligible Afghans has been closed and according to Defense Secretary Ben Wallace there will be a final set of eight or nine flights on Friday. British troops will leave over the next few days.
"We think down to approximately 100-150 British nationals left in the estimated pot, some of those are willingly staying," Wallace told LBC radio. According to him, the numbers are better than earlier estimates. He also added that there is expected to be , and added that there is likely to be around 800 to 1,100 people who could not be helped under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy (Arap) scheme.
As per a report by The Guardian, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was somewhat unclear on how many visa holders from Afghanistan were in the country, nor how many of those registered on SafeTravel had managed to leave. "But I can say, we know with absolute certainty, we did not get everyone out,” she admitted. Ardern however insisted that New Zealand had not given up on visa-holders, stating that the future evacuation will "look different" and be difficult and longer.
Her Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison downplayed the possibility of Afghan nationals holding Australian visas who remain in Afghanistan being unable to get out. He added that his administration was "still engaged with them".
The Spanish government said it has ended its airlift, while French European affairs minister, Clement Beaune, said that the country will end its operation "soon" but may seek to extend it until after Friday night. The Taliban has asked Turkey to operate Kabul airport after the Americans leave, but a decision will be made "after the administration (in Afghanistan) is clear," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday.
Untold numbers of Afghans, especially ones who had worked with the U.S. and other Western countries, are now in hiding from the Taliban, fearing retaliation despite the group's offer of full amnesty. Several news reports have since quoted furious locals who had worked with foreign countries and now feel "betrayed" and at risk.