NEW DELHI: India has decided to temporarily close its consulate in Kandahar as the Taliban’s claims about taking Afghan territory grow.
Indian sent a special Indian Air Force flight to evacuate about 50 diplomats and security back to Delhi in view of the “intense fighting near Kandahar city”. The fighting started as the Taliban tries to regain control over the country as the US pulls out its forces after nearly two decades.
Officials said the move was purely precautionary and stemmed from reports that fighting in the city with Afghan Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) could get fierce if the Taliban continue to push on to the southern city of Kandahar, which was their headquarters in the 1990s.
At present, the Indian Embassy in Kabul and the consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif in Balkh province remain operational. According to the officials, the personnel that returned to Delhi would be transported back if the situation improves, while some may alternatively travel to Kabul to continue consular operations.
In April 2020, the government decided to suspend operations at India’s other two consulates in Jalalabad and Herat and pull all its personnel out from there as well.
While the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had said the decision to withdraw the staff was due to the COVID pandemic, security concerns were believed to be the reason they have not been sent back yet.
Earlier, the Ministry of External Affairs said India was carefully monitoring the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and its implications on the safety and security of Indian nationals.
Over the last few weeks, Afghanistan witnessed a series of terror attacks as the US looked to complete the withdrawal of its forces by the end of August, ending its military presence in the war-ravaged country for nearly two decades.
Officials say they have been particularly worried about Kandahar, with exit routes limited to the airport, as Taliban forces have taken control of other key districts close to the city. On Friday, Kandahar’s governor said Taliban militants had been repelled by security forces when they tried to attack the city’s ‘District 7’.
India has expressed concerns over the growing violence at various international fora, and Afghanistan was the major subject of discussion during External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s visit to Tehran and Moscow this week
The Indian embassy has asked all Indians visiting, staying and working in Afghanistan to exercise the utmost caution and avoid all non-essential travel in the country. In its advisory, the embassy said the security situation remains “dangerous” and terror groups have carried out a series of attacks targeting civilians. Indian nationals additionally face a “serious threat” of kidnapping, the ministry said.