Czech government:Kabul evacuation program successfully completed

Taliban fighters display their flag on patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 19, 2021

The hectic evacuation effort aimed at getting Czechs and their Afghan co-workers out of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan is over, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš announced at a press briefing in Prague on Thursday. The head of government said the operation had been successful and thanked everyone who fought to save lives in extreme conditions.    

Photo: Czech Army

After three days of round-the-clock negotiations, stress and uncertainty regarding the fate of its people in Afghanistan, the government was able to announce on Thursday that the rescue effort had been successful. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said he was hugely relieved that despite the catastrophic scenario that evolved in Afghanistan the military had brought out all the country’s nationals and co-workers.

“Our soldiers and the ambassador to Kabul performed an incredible feat in a highly chaotic and unpredictable situation where every minute counted. I can say now that we were able to bring out everyone on our list – our own embassy staff, security workers, Afghan workers at the embassy and interpreters who cooperated with the army. This operation has saved many lives and those involved in it have my gratitude and respect.”

Photo: Rahmat Gul,  ČTK/AP

Over the past three days three evacuation planes brought 195 people out of Kabul, of whom 170 are reported to be Afghan nationals. Responding to information that a number of people striving to get to the Czech Republic –including families with young children – are still stranded at Kabul Airport, Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhánek said that if this were confirmed his ministry would negotiate their evacuation on allied flights. He said Czech planes had also brought back individual evacuees for Poland and Slovakia. The family which told the CNN it had been left behind because the Czech evacuation plane was full was reportedly put on a US plane out of Kabul several hours later.

Speaking about the fast deteriorating situation in Afghanistan Mr. Kulhánek said the Czech Republic would continue to help as best as it could.

Jakub Kulhánek | Photo: Kateřina Šulová,  ČTK

“Afghan society will need our help in the future and Czech diplomacy will do what it can. It is clear that as regards Afghanistan the EU and NATO will have to adopt a pragmatic approach and cooperate with regional players such a Pakistan, China or Qatar who have contacts with the Taliban. This will also be important in preventing uncontrolled migration from the region. And I think that we should also try to condition humanitarian aid to Afghanistan on respect for basic human rights, such as the rights that Afghan women managed to secure in the past twenty years.”

The evacuated Afghan nationals have now been placed in quarantine in Czech Army facilities. They will be offered vaccination against Covid-19 and be consulted about their plans for the future. Interior Minister Jan Hamáček told Czech Radio that those who want to settle in the country would be given every assistance.

The Afghan community in the Czech Republic is relatively small. 244 Afghan nationals have permanent residence in the country and 84 Afghan nationals have temporary protection.