Airspace over Afghanistan closed; India keeps commercial and military aircraft ready for evacuation

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Updated: August 16, 2021 3:45 PM

The government of India and the Indian mission in that country had been issuing advisory urging all to leave when the flights were operating.

kabul airportA horde of people run towards the Kabul Airport Terminal, after Taliban insurgents took control of the presidential palace in Kabul, August 16. (Reuters Photo)

The Ministry of External Affairs in coordination with other ministries is expected to plan the evacuation of Indian citizens from Afghanistan. Though the airspace over Afghanistan is closed and all international flights are getting diverted.

Indian citizens still in Kabul

The government of India and the Indian mission in that country had been issuing advisory urging all to leave when the flights were operating. Today, according to reports there are hundreds of Indians stuck in that country. “How to evacuate those stuck there is still being planned. There is no total chaos,” admitted a senior official who wished to remain anonymous.

Air India flight and IAF on Standby?

The AI flights have been on a standby and the situation in that country is being monitored. The Indian Air Force (IAF) according to reports has been tasked to keep one of its transport aircraft ready to be deployed to bring back those stuck there.

As was the case during the repatriation of the Indians during the global lockdown, the evacuation will be initiated by the MEA.

Late Sunday night (August 15, 2021) several Indians as well as Afghan citizens came onboard an Air India Flight. However, the situation in Kabul on August 16 has forced the international flights to avoid the airspace of that country.

According to sources “The airspace over Afghanistan has reportedly been closed for all flights. This includes overflying them. In fact there are reports that Air India flights from the US have been diverted to Muscat and after refueling will fly to India.

All other diplomatic missions are rushing to evacuate their officials and staff.

As has been reported earlier, last week, India had evacuated its diplomats and personnel from its consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif. The decision to evacuate them from there was taken in view of the escalating violence by the Taliban around the capital city of Balkh province.

Situation in Afghanistan

The social media is full of images of the Afghans being shot dead at the airport as they tried to escape the life under Taliban once again.

Despite the fact that trillions of dollars have been spent by the US led forces in Afghanistan over two decades, Taliban has come back to power and establish Islamist rule in that country.

The former President Ashraf Ghani who fled the country on Sunday as the Taliban stood at the doors of Kabul is on his way to the US along with the former NSA. Several former Afghan officials tried to flee to Tajikistan, but their flights were not allowed to land there, according to reports.

Update Today

“They have sold us all,” said an Afghan who feared for the lives of his family and friends.

Since late last evening there have been reports of sporadic firing in Kabul. Prisoners have been released from Pul-i-Charkhi Central Prison. There are reports of looting as all the police posts have been vacated. The Talibs, according to sources, have been sending their representatives to every house and business establishment including banks instructing them to hand over any weapons they have in their possession to the nearest PD Headquarters. All the vegetable markets and grocery stores are closed. There are fears that the interest services will be shut down and access to mobile phones will be restricted.

International reaction on the situation in Afghanistan

USA

Over the next 48 hours the US plans to expand their security presence to around 6000 troops whose main mission is to take over the air traffic control and expedite the evacuation of thousands of its citizens from there.

According to an official joint statement issued by the US Department of State and Defense, “Over the coming days the US will be transferring out the locally employed staff of the US mission in Kabul and their families. And several thousands of the US citizens who are resident in Afghanistan and also other particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals.”

The statement which was issued last evening (Sunday, August 15, 2021), talks about the steps being taken by the US forces to secure the Hamid Karzai International Airport, which will help in the safe departure of the US and allied personnel through military and civilian flights.

Over the past two weeks around 2000 Afghans have reached the US on Special Immigrant Visas and there are plans to evacuate thousands of more Afghans who are eligible for the Special Visa.

“Additional locations are being identified for those that have yet to be screened, said the statement and the people who have cleared security screening are being sent on to the US,” stated the statement.

Russia:

According to Russian news agencies, foreign ministry official Zamir Kabulov has said “There are no plans to evacuate the embassy in Kabul as the Taliban has given security assurances to Russia for its missions.”

As the Taliban completes its takeover of Afghanistan, “We are working with other countries to hold an emergency meeting in the UNSC on the situation there.”

Pakistan has decided not to close its embassy there.

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