Czech Republic begins evacuation of Czech Embassy and associated Afghan personnel from Kabul
Following the rapid advance of Taliban forces, the Czech Republic has begun evacuating its personnel from Afghanistan. The first Czech aircraft, carrying diplomats and embassy staff arrived in Prague on Monday morning. In total, it is expected that close to 100 Czechs and Afghan support staff will be evacuated from the country.
Shock at the Taliban’s rapid advance through Afghanistan reached a new high last week when the Islamic movement’s forces first reached Kandahar and then the outskirts of the Afghan capital of Kabul.
Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Jakub Kulhánek called for a crisis staff meeting on Saturday after which he announced that diplomats from the Czech mission to Afghanistan and their Afghan staff would be evacuated as soon as possible.
“The fact that I called for a crisis staff meeting shows how serious the situation in Afghanistan is. We can see that all NATO allies have been surprised by the recent developments in Afghanistan. I spoke to the Czech ambassador in Kabul a few moments ago and, based on the recommendations he gave as well as the information provided by our NATO allies, I decided to immediately move our diplomats to Kabul Airport.”
A day later, reports that the Taliban had entered Kabul began coming in. The city’s Hamid Karzai Airport became enveloped in chaos as many Afghans tried to board the air transports, forcing US troops to fire warning shots in the air. The situation meant that it was “virtually a miracle” that the first Czech aircraft carrying evacuees was able to take off, according to Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Eva Davidová.
The aircraft landed at Prague’s Kbely airport on Monday morning. On board were 46 members of the Czech mission to Afghanistan and the country’s Kabul embassy staff, reportedly including women and children. A second plane took off for Kabul a few hours later and will evacuate further members of the Czech mission to Afghanistan.
It is not yet clear how many evacuation flights the Czech government is planning. However, according to the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, Ondřej Veselý, the rescue operation encompasses close to 100 people, including a Czech military police unit and the Afghan interpreters who helped the Czech Army.
Reports from Czech Television suggest that the interpreters may be currently hiding near the Kabul airport with one having been captured by Taliban troops. However, Defence Minister Lubomír Metnar, has assured that all interpreters who are part of the Czech support programme remain in contact with the Defence Ministry.
Following another crisis staff meeting on Monday, the Defence Ministry announced that it is doing all it can to evacuate as many people as possible and asked the public and media for patience.
Those arriving from Kabul have to undergo a security check and then go into quarantine for a period of two weeks. They will most likely be housed in the military facility in Těchonín.
Meanwhile, on the EU level, the head of the European External Action Service Josep Borell announced that an extraordinary meeting of EU foreign ministers is set to take place on Tuesday afternoon.