Embassies and NGOs recall personnel from Afghanistan as Taliban cements rule
Bangladeshi nationals in Afghanistan are leaving Kabul as chaos reigned at airports after the government collapsed in the face of the Taliban onslaught on Sunday.
International NGO Brac has recalled its employees stationed there as fears of violence under Taliban regime rise.
Brac International employs nearly 3,000 workers in 10 Afghan provinces. Among them 12 are Bangladeshis while two are foreigners.
Three Bangladeshi employees left the Afghan capital on a Turkish Airlines flight on Sunday and six more are expected to leave on Wednesday.
Three more Bangladeshis who were on leave along with two other foreigners have been notified to not rejoin their stations.
Brac officials Mohammad Karim Sikder Mohammad Asaduzzaman, Mohammad Sarfaraz, Kamal Hossain, Rafiqul Haque Mridha and Yusuf Hossain are expected to take a flight out to Dhaka on Wednesday.
Brac started recalling all foreign workers stationed in Afghanistan on Friday while locals are currently working from home.
“Brac International is implementing mitigation measures to minimize the risks to the safety and security of our staff and the communities we serve, which is our highest concern,” said Brac International Executive Director Shameran Abed.
Considering their safety, the whereabouts of the Brac workers have not been disclosed.
However, Bangladesh envoy to Uzbekistan Md Jahangir Alam said that the remaining six employees were currently residing at a guest house in Kabul, reports Bangla Tribune.
Bangladesh has no mission in Afghanistan and the country’s interests are maintained through the embassy in Ujbekistan.
Ambassador Alam said that previously around 500 Bangladeshis had been working with Brac but most of them returned as the situation worsened.
Bangladesh monitoring situation
Bangladesh is closely monitoring the fast-evolving situation in Afghanistan, which Dhaka believes may have an impact on the region and beyond, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said.
"We urge all stakeholders in Afghanistan to maintain peace and calm, ensuring the safety and security of all, including foreign nationals," said a statement issued on Monday.
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Bangladesh is committed to working with Afghanistan to fulfil the visionary policy of the prime minister, the statement reads, adding that the region must grow and prosper together for the development to be sustainable.
It also states that Bangladesh is ready to share its best practices with Afghanistan in a range of areas, such as basic education, community healthcare, sanitation, human resources development, agriculture, climate change adaptation, disaster management and ICT-enabled public service delivery.
Dhaka’s letter to Afghan ministry
Ambassador Jahangir Alam told Bangla Tribune that the Bangladesh mission had already written to the Afghan foreign ministry on Friday, requesting information on the whereabouts of Bangladeshi nationals living there.
Asked whether the note would work, he said: “It’s true Kabul doesn’t have political leadership now. But bureaucrats are still working there and the embassy has written to the foreign secretary, who is working there.”
The ambassador said that two hotlines had been opened so that the Bangladeshis could seek help.
Bangladeshi prisoners in Afghan prisons
The ambassador confirmed that there were three Bangladeshis currently in Afghan prisons.
“The prisoners escaped when the Taliban entered Kabul and broke down the gate of the central jail,” he said.
“One of the prisoners, Moin Al Mejba, contacted us and he is currently at a friend’s place in Kabul,” Ambassador Jahangir added.
He said that a female prisoner, Nasrin Sultana, had also escaped but she could not be traced.
Meanwhile, another Bangladeshi named Obaidullah is in a jail in another province but the embassy could not gather information on him either.
Bangladeshis joining Taliban?
Responding to the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) commissioner Md Shafiqul Islam’s comments that recently some Bangladeshis had left for Afghanistan to join the Taliban, Ambassador Jahangir Alam said: “We aren’t aware of it.
“If someone wants to come here legally, then the Afghan mission in Dhaka can help them.”
Political connections with Afghanistan
On whether political connection would be established with the Taliban, the ambassador said that it was up to Dhaka to decide. “I’ll work as per the government’s directives.
“Our topmost priority is to protect the interests of Bangladesh and Bangladeshis. The current situation isn’t making it easy, and hence we have to be careful.”
Ambassador Jahangir Alam said that Bangladesh was closely monitoring the situation.
“The Afghan Army’s morale is broken. The Taliban has captured Kabul without any resistance and it’s rumored that President Ashraf Ghani is in Tajikistan.”
The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan in just over a week, with its triumph culminating in the fall of Kabul on Sunday.
Afghan forces aided by the United States melted away before the insurgents who entered the capital with little to no resistance.
Meanwhile, a Taliban spokesperson said that it did not want to live in isolation and was calling for peaceful international relations, and that the form of the new regime would be made clear soon.
The US State Department said on Monday that all embassy personnel, including Ambassador Ross Wilson, had been transferred to Kabul airport to await evacuation and the American flag had been lowered and removed from the embassy compound.
Earlier, other foreign missions evacuated their embassies, recalling personnel back to their countries.
Afghanistan’s airport remains a crowded mess with people scrambling to leave the country, jostling for places on commercial flights.