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Nato countries ending evacuations as Afghan departure deadline looms

POLAND announced an end to evacuations from Afghanistan today as Nato members admitted they would be forced to stop operations before the last US troops depart next week.

“After a long analysis, we cannot risk the lives of our diplomats and of our soldiers any longer,” junior foreign minister Marcin Przydacz said.

Following President Joe Biden’s refusal of pleas from European countries to stay longer, which would breach the terms of the US ceasefire agreement with the Taliban, other countries said the airlifts of their own citizens and Afghans who have been offered passage would soon end.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said its airlifts would stop “a few hours, maybe a few days” before the August 31 deadline.

The US has already evacuated over 70,000 people since the fall of Kabul to the Taliban on August 14, the largest airlift in its history.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said the organisation would not prevent people leaving on civilian flights after the US withdrawal is complete, but it is unclear if commercial airlines are prepared to resume flights to an airport that will be under control by the extremist group.

There were bitter recriminations over the chaotic scenes at the airport in the US Congress, with Republicans accusing Mr Biden of ploughing ahead with his domestic reforms when government efforts should be focused on the Afghan crisis.

US officials expressed anger at two congressmen, Democrat Seth Moulton of Massachussetts and Republican Peter Meijer of Michigan, who flew in and out of Kabul this week to “provide oversight on the executive branch” by checking the reality on the ground, saying their visit had not been co-ordinated with diplomats and distracted from evacuation efforts. 

But China said it had established “communication and consultation” with the Taliban.

It has not evacuated its citizens, though it has issued guidance on dress codes and public behaviour to avoid Taliban repression.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said China would respect “the Afghan people’s independent decision on their own future.”

Beijing is wary of Taliban links with fellow jihadists in the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (Etim) which fights to establish a caliphate in the Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region.

But it is rumoured to have offered investment in return for a Taliban pledge not to harbour or assist Etim.

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