Former Canadian Ambassador To Afghanistan On Efforts Protect Kabul’s Vulnerable

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For so many people in the U.S. and other countries who have worked closely with Afghans, an overwhelming worry right now is how to protect them, how to help them reach safety. Well, Chris Alexander is one of those people trying to help. He’s a former Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan and former deputy special representative of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. He has joined with some other diplomats in an independent push to evacuate Afghans who may be vulnerable to Taliban retribution. He’s here now. Chris Alexander, welcome.

CHRIS ALEXANDER: Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

KELLY: Tell us what exactly you’re trying to do, who exactly you’re trying to help.

ALEXANDER: Well, trying to ensure that those who are vulnerable in this situation are out of harm’s way. And that includes, as a priority, people the Taliban are likely to target in for summary execution. We’ve seen it happen in Kandahar. We’ve heard about it and seen it in other provinces. And it’s likely happening in Kabul tonight, either journalists, either human rights defenders, women’s rights activists, some who worked in sensitive positions in police, in the army, the people that worked most closely with the government and with us as Afghanistan’s international partners. They know that they are on kill lists. And if they don’t get out, and if they don’t - there’s a much more concerted effort to protect them, I worry very deeply for the next few weeks and beyond.

KELLY: Can you tell us one story of one person who’s reached out who you’re trying to help, one story that will stick with you?

ALEXANDER: Well, one family in Lashkar Gah in the south of Afghanistan, where British forces were for a long time, from an ethnic minority, young man from the family is in Kabul. He was in a prominent position. He was a youth leader. His family had to leave home. Taliban took it over, his uncle taken into custody by the Taliban, probably tortured, put on notice that the worst may be yet to come. And they’re looking for him. He came to Kabul to be safe in Kabul. But now the Taliban are all over Kabul. So what do we do for this young man who put his hopes in the future of his country and in a future that never should have included the Taliban?

KELLY: If you can get these people out, whether it’s this young man or the others you’re trying to help, where do they go? Where would you evacuate them to?

ALEXANDER: Well, that is the question. Beyond Canada’s generous offer of 20,000 refugees to be resettled, we haven’t seen large numbers proposed by other countries that usually resettle refugees. The United States is usually very prominent in this role. Apart from a larger effort to help interpreters and those who worked directly with U.S. forces, we haven’t seen the U.S. pulling its weight and certainly not European countries. So we need to work on that capacity side and ensure there’s more generosity. In the meantime, we need places for planes to land. And it’s ironic, but some of the smallest countries of Europe so far are making the biggest gestures - Kosovo and North Macedonia. Albania are offering to take a certain number. We’re working on other partners who might be willing to do that, including Ukraine.

KELLY: We just have less than a minute left. But what about Pakistan’s role here? And I’m asking in part because I know you have been very critical of Pakistan. You’ve suggested the prime minister should be tried for war crimes for Pakistan’s role. What would be a constructive role for Pakistan to play here? Is it opening its borders, letting people in?

ALEXANDER: They’re not going to play a constructive role. They’ve shut their borders. And those who oppose the Taliban are being persecuted inside Pakistan. We have to be realistic. The world needs to come to terms with the fact that this was not a Taliban takeover. This was a Pakistani invasion. This was organized by Pakistan’s intelligence service, ordered by their generals. And it’s been going on for 40 years. That’s why there has been war for so long because no one in the international community has held Pakistan to account in the way we did Vladimir Putin when he invaded Ukraine, for example.

KELLY: Thank you. I’ll you there. And we’re going to - I’ll note we have invitations out to Pakistani officials to come on and respond to some of those things you’re saying. Thank you so much for joining us tonight.

ALEXANDER: Thank you.

KELLY: Former Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan, Chris Alexander. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Afghanistan: UK ambassador Laurie Bristow remains in Kabul airport to process visas for evacuees

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The UK’s ambassador to Afghanistan remained in Kabul on Sunday night, as the embassy frantically worked to help British and Afghan nationals flee the country.

Officials were left stunned by the speed at which the Taliban took control of the Afghan capital, leaving the embassy scrambling to pull dozens of its staff and thousands more Afghan allies out of the city.

The Foreign Office (FO) said ambassador Sir Laurie Bristow had stayed behind to help orchestrate the evacuation of remaining Britons. It is understood he is personally processing visa applications at the airport.

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“We have reduced our diplomatic presence in response to the situation on the ground, but our ambassador remains in Kabul and UK Government staff continue to work to provide assistance to British nationals and to our Afghan staff,” an FO spokesperson said.

“We are doing all we can to enable remaining British nationals, who want to leave Afghanistan, to do so.”

Supported by Special Forces, around 600 British troops from the 16 Air Assault Brigade, including 150 Paratroopers, are attempting to airlift British officials out of the city.

As many as 2,000 interpreters and their families could eligible for rescue, alongside 3,000 British personnel – aid workers and security officials – who are British and dual passport holders.

According to the Daily Mail, only 450 have applied to leave Afghanistan, despite the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) urging them to exit the country for their safety since April.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said he was confident the UK Government could get British nationals safely out of the country, with hundreds more expected to be rescued in the coming days.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he said he had received assurances from the Taliban military leadership that the airport would be allowed to function. Around 300 British passport holders had left Afghanistan on Sunday, he confirmed.

“If we manage to keep it in the way we’re planning to, we should have capacity for over 1,000 people a day to exit to the United Kingdom,” he said.

“Currently, this is not about capacity on planes, it’s about processing speeds, so that’s why I’m trying to fix that.”

As for the remaining Britons, Mr Wallace said the Government would try its “very best” to get them out of Afghanistan by 31 August.

“If we can manage to keep the airport running in the way we are putting in place our people to deliver then I’m confident that by the end of the month we could get everyone out and actually hopefully sooner.”

Read More The Taliban take over an Afghanistan hollowed out by corruption

Former UK military chiefs criticised the British Government’s exit from Kabul, which ended 20 years of British presence in the country.

Lord Dannatt, a former UK chief of the general staff who led the British Army in Afghanistan, said it was clear that there was no strategy behind the British withdrawal.

Sir Nicholas Kay, former British ambassador to Afghanistan, said he was “hanging his head in shame” over the Government’s approach to the country.

Labour urged the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, to expand the resettlement programme for Afghans.

The shadow Home Secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, said: “We must live up to our obligations, especially to those Afghan people who worked so bravely with [the British].”

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted Britain could “look back at 20 years of effort and achievement In Afghanistan”. He argued that he wanted to “make sure that we don’t throw those gains away”.

“Our priority is to make sure that we deliver on our obligations to UK nationals in Afghanistan, to all those who helped the British effort in Afghanistan over 20 years, and to get them out as fast we can,” he said after chairing an emergency Cobra meeting to discuss the Taliban’s seizure.

“We are going to get as many as we can out in the next few days.”

Russian Ambassador To Meet Taliban In Kabul Tuesday

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Russia’s ambassador to Afghanistan will meet with the Taliban in Kabul on Tuesday, an official said

Russia said its ambassador to Afghanistan will meet with the Taliban in Kabul on Tuesday and that it will decide on whether to recognise the new government based on its conduct.

“Our ambassador is in contact with the Taliban leadership, tomorrow he will meet with the Taliban security coordinator,” foreign ministry official Zamir Kabulov said in an interview with the Ekho Moskvy radio station on Monday.

He said the talks between Moscow’s ambassador, Dmitry Zhirnov, and the Taliban would centre on how the group plans to provide security for the Russian embassy in the Afghan capital.

On Sunday, as the Taliban completed its military takeover of Afghanistan, Kabulov said that Russia had no plans on evacuating its embassy – though on Monday he said that “part” of its staff would be “evacuated”.

Kabulov also said that Moscow will decide on recognising the new Taliban government based “on the conduct of the new authorities”.

“We will carefully see how responsibly they govern the country in the near future. And based on the results, the Russian leadership will draw the necessary conclusions,” Kabulov said.

In recent years, Russia has sought to reach out to the Taliban and has hosted Taliban representatives in Moscow several times, most recently last month.

Moscow is closely watching for a potential spillover of the instability into neighbouring ex-Soviet Central Asian countries where Russia maintains military bases.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)