An Afghan family rushes to the Hamid Karzai International Airport as they flee the Afghan capital of Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 16, 2021.

An Afghan family rushes to the Hamid Karzai International Airport as they flee the Afghan capital of Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 16, 2021. Haroon Sabawoon / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Foreign Governments Scramble To Leave Afghanistan Amid Violence and Chaos

"It’s sad that the West has done what it’s done," says UK defense secretary as NATO, UN, G7 react to Taliban takeover.

International leaders on Monday were scrambling to respond to the chaotic situation in Afghanistan that deteriorated more quickly than many anticipated.

Several countries, including Canada, the United States, Norway, and Denmark have shuttered their embassies, but the Western troop presence in Afghanistan is increasing as nations evacuate both their own citizens and the Afghans who helped their governments during the 20-year war amid chaos and violence at the airport in Kabul after the city fell to the Taliban. 

The UK is sending 900 troops to Kabul to help evacuate British citizens, while the United States has tapped at least 6,000 military personnel to be sent into Afghanistan to help secure the airport, where Afghans are flooding the tarmac desperately trying to leave the country and American forces reportedly killed two armed Afghans.   

Still, it might not be enough. British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace choked back tears on Monday during an interview with radio station LBC where he acknowledged the UK may not be able to evacuate everyone eligible to leave Afghanistan. 

“It’s a really deep part of regret for me that some people won’t get back,” he said, his voice cracking. “It’s sad that the West has done what it’s done, and we have to do our very best to get people out and stand by our obligations.” 

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is expected to brief the press on Tuesday. 

More than 60 nations, including the United States, signed a joint statement Sunday night asking the Taliban to allow foreign nationals as well as Afghans to leave safely. 

“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,” the statement said. “The Afghan people deserve to live in safety, security and dignity. We in the international community stand ready to assist them.”

Other international organizations were focusing on how to stop the violence and human rights abuses that were expected now that the Taliban is in control. On Friday, the Associated Press reported that girls in the northern Takhar province were stopped and beaten for wearing sandals that the Taliban deemed too “revealing,” and in Kunduz, the Taliban is reportedly going door to door looking for former Afghan government officials.

United Nations human rights experts on Monday called on international partners to protect the people of Afghanistan from the Taliban, which has repeatedly broken the conditions set forth in an agreement with the United States, including engaging in negotiations with the Afghan government and not conducting military operations.    

“It is unacceptable for states to stand on the sidelines when a United Nations Security Council listed terrorist organisation overruns the territory of Afghanistan and engages in acts that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity,” the statement said. “The people of Afghanistan deserve better than to endure the silence and by-standing of the member states of the United Nations at this perilous moment.”

The letter makes five recommendations, including asking countries to take in Afghan refugees seeking asylum and to impose international sanctions against the Taliban.

The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting on Monday to address the escalating violence, including how to continue delivering humanitarian aid to Afghans. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is also calling a virtual meeting of the G7 nations in the coming days to discuss how best to address the worsening situation on the ground in Afghanistan. 

NATO countries, many of which fought alongside American troops for the past 20 years, released a statement after a Friday meeting saying the Taliban “will not be recognised by the international community if they take the country by force.” 

China and Russia, however, have already suggested they would recognize and have “cooperative” relations with the Taliban now that they are in power. 

Once countries have dealt with the immediate need to evacuate personnel and protect human rights, it’s important to evaluate how the situation in Afghanistan deteriorated so quickly, said Armin Laschet, a top contender to replace German Chancellor Angela Merkel when she steps down this year. On Monday, he slammed NATO for withdrawing troops in a way that created the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, calling it “the biggest debacle that NATO has seen since its foundation.” 

“We will talk about the causes and conclusions drawn after this rescue mission -- a no holds barred analysis of errors in Germany, with our allies and in the international community," he said.