Defense Minister Margarita Robles acknowledges ‘some people will be left behind’ in Taliban-controlled country.
OVIEDO, Spain (AA) – Spain is expanding its evacuation list to include Afghans who some fear could be persecuted by the Taliban, particularly women who held public roles in areas such as journalism or activism, said Spain’s defense chief on Tuesday.
Previously, Spain had prioritized evacuating those who had worked alongside Spanish or European authorities during the last 20 years.
Even so, Defense Minister Margarita Robles acknowledged in an interview with broadcaster Cadena Ser that “some people will be left behind for reasons that are out of our hands.”
She said Spain will continue rescuing Afghan citizens until the US loses control of the airport in the capital Kabul.
On Monday, a Taliban spokesperson told Sky News that they would not accept the US extending their presence beyond Aug. 31 – a week away – but Robles said Spain is waiting on the US to decide whether they will stay longer – something President Joe Biden has already said may well happen.
So far, Spain has evacuated more than 800 people from Afghanistan. Another 420 are slated to arrive by early Wednesday.
Spanish authorities are only operating from the Kabul airport. Robles said the people who Spain has added to the evacuation list should try to get to the airport gates on their own and wear the colors of the Spanish flag so they can be identified more easily.
A coordinated effort to rescue vulnerable Afghans outside of the airport is a possibility, Robles said, but she was not confident that the plan will go through.
“I’m realistic, and it’s very complicated. We need approval from the Taliban and everyone is getting more nervous as the deadline gets closer,” she said.
According to Robles, the “Taliban are getting increasingly aggressive” and their checkpoints across the country are “getting tougher.”
Spain is also welcoming family members of those on its evacuation list. On Monday, a 15-day-old baby landed at the Torrejon de Ardoz airbase, which Spain has set up as a temporary shelter for those fleeing Afghanistan.
Over the weekend, Spain also struck an agreement with the US to host their evacuees from Afghanistan at two military bases used by the US. On Monday, Robles told journalists those bases could hold a further 4,000 people.