Pakistan has evacuated 1,100 people from Kabul, says UN envoy

Published August 20, 2021
This file photo shows Pakistan's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Munir Akram. — Photo courtesy: Radio Pakistan
This file photo shows Pakistan's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Munir Akram. — Photo courtesy: Radio Pakistan

Pakistan has evacuated around 1,100 people — including diplomats, staff of diplomatic missions and international agencies, and journalists — from Kabul, Pakistan's Permanent Representative at the United Nations Ambassador Munir Akram said on Friday.

In an interview with CNN's Isa Soares, he said that the situation in Afghanistan was "challenging". "But our embassy is operating. They are processing all applicants [seeking] visas and those who want to utilise Pakistan as a transit point to leave Afghanistan."

He said that Pakistan was flying three flights a day to Kabul airport so that between 500 to 600 people can be evacuated on a daily basis.

He added that Pakistan would also facilitate those wanting to enter Pakistan through the land border between the two countries, provided they have the necessary documentation.

"But at the moment, the focus has been on the airport which is under US control, and we are utilising that to take out as many people as possible," he said.

Meanwhile, federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said that Pakistan International Airlines had resumed its Kabul operations, adding that 350 passengers will arrive today (Friday).

"More flights are scheduled. Likewise the interior ministry is facilitating people arriving through the borders. Pakistan is at the forefront of helping Journalists and others caught up in the Afghan conflict," he wrote on Twitter.

Nato pledges to speed evacuations from Afghanistan as criticism mounts

More than 18,000 people have been flown out of Kabul since the Taliban took over Afghanistan's capital, a Nato official said on Friday, pledging to redouble evacuation efforts as criticism of the West's handling of the crisis mounted.

Thousands of people, desperate to flee the country, were still thronging the airport, the official who declined to be identified told Reuters, even though the Taliban have urged people without legal travel documents to go home.

The Taliban urged unity ahead of Friday prayers, the first since they seized power, calling on imams to persuade people not to leave Afghanistan amid the chaos at the airport, protests and reports of violence.

US struggles to speed Kabul airlift despite Taliban, chaos

The US is struggling to pick up the pace of American and Afghan evacuations at Kabul airport, constrained by obstacles ranging from armed Taliban checkpoints to paperwork problems.

With an August 31 deadline looming, tens of thousands remained to be airlifted from the country.

Taliban fighters and their checkpoints ringed the airport — major barriers for Afghans who fear that their past work with Westerners makes them prime targets for retribution.

Hundreds of Afghans who lacked any papers or clearance for evacuation also congregated outside the airport, adding to the chaos that has prevented even some Afghans who do have papers and promises of flights from getting through.

It didn’t help that many of the Taliban fighters could not read the documents.

In a hopeful sign, State Department spokesman Ned Price said in Washington that 6,000 people were cleared for evacuation on Thursday and were expected to board military flights in the coming hours.

That would mark a major increase from recent days. About 2,000 passengers were flown out on each of the past two days, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

Kirby said the military has aircraft available to evacuate 5,000 to 9,000 people per day, but until Thursday far fewer designated evacuees had been able to reach, and then enter, the airport.

Kirby told reporters the limiting factor has been available evacuees, not aircraft. He said efforts were underway to speed processing, including adding State Department consular officers to verify paperwork of Americans and Afghans who managed to get to the airport. Additional entry gates had been opened, he said.

And yet, at the current rate it would be difficult for the US to evacuate all of the Americans and Afghans who are qualified for and seeking evacuation by August 31.

On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden said he would ensure no American was left behind, even if that meant staying beyond August, an arbitrary deadline that he set weeks before the Taliban climaxed a stunning military victory by taking Kabul last weekend.

It was not clear if Biden might consider extending the deadline for evacuees who aren’t American citizens.

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