308 at-risk Afghans and their families have been evacuated amid chaos, insecurity at Kabul airport.
PARIS (AA) – A total of three flights have taken off from the Afghan capital Kabul under a French evacuation mission, two of which carried Afghan nationals, France’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.
Under the mission, two flights carrying French citizens, Afghans, Indians and other nationalities reached Paris as of Wednesday.
A third flight with 137 people on board is expected to land Wednesday night or Thursday morning.
Defense Minister Florence Parly said in a tweet that the latest flight had evacuated 13 French citizens and 124 Afghans and was on the way from Abu Dhabi to Paris.
This takes the total number of Afghan nationals evacuated from Kabul to 308.
France has deployed military reinforcements and air assets to the United Arab Emirates to carry out evacuations from Kabul to Paris via Abu Dhabi. It has also relocated its embassy and set up a crisis and support center to facilitate evacuation.
In the first flight, 41 people – including 21 Indian nationals who were securing the French Embassy in Kabul – were evacuated, Emmanuel Lenin, France’s ambassador to New Delhi, said on Twitter.
The second flight, which arrived early Wednesday, had 216 people on board: 25 French citizens, 184 Afghans, four Dutch citizens, one Irish citizen and two Kenyans. The rescued Afghan nationals included employees and families of the French mission as well as citizens and activists in need of protection.
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the evacuation of the second flight carrying mostly Afghan nationals “complex.”
“This operation, which allows the protection of Afghans that it was imperative to protect, is the success of important collective work. Our diplomats, soldiers and police, currently in Kabul, are hard at work every moment,” he said in a statement.
Parly told BFMTV news that there are a few dozen more former Afghan employees of the French mission who need to be repatriated. However, accessing the airport controlled by US troops is a “real logistical and operational challenge,” she said, as it is “congested by an invasion of crowds, an interruption in air traffic.”
According to multiple ground reports, Afghan nationals employed as interpreters, translators and civilian staff of the foreign missions with valid travel documents were unable to bypass security hurdles surrounding Kabul airport, manned and controlled by Taliban forces. As a result, several evacuation flights organized by Western countries left with few passengers.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen has warned Afghans against leaving the country and promised a general amnesty to the employees of foreign missions. However, several thousand Afghan employees of foreign military missions fear their lives will not be spared and are desperately trying to get on the flights.
Since May, over 600 Afghan employees from the French mission, institutions and non-governmental organizations have been brought to France, and more than 1,350 former civilian staff and their families working with the French military have been relocated since 2013.