• Kyodo, Reuters

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Amid deteriorating security after the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan, Japan has evacuated all personnel from its embassy in Kabul and set up a temporary office in Istanbul to resume embassy operations, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

Twelve Japanese embassy staff members arrived in Dubai on Tuesday "aboard a military airplane of a friendly nation" after the embassy in Kabul was shut Sunday, according to the ministry.

"Securing the safety of Japanese citizens is our top priority, and we will closely cooperate with relevant countries including the United States with our national interests in mind," Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.

Meanwhile, the government's top spokesman said Wednesday that Japan was in close contact with a "small number" of its nationals still in Afghanistan, seeking to ensure their safety after Taliban militants took over Kabul.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a news conference that none of the Japanese nationals still remaining in Afghanistan had been reported to have suffered injuries, but declined to give details, citing security concerns.

Most of them were with international organizations, a Foreign Ministry official said, but also declined to give details, including estimates of how many there were.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) said its last Japanese staff had left in June, prompted by worsening security conditions as well as uncertainty over the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another major overseas agency, the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), has never had an office in Afghanistan so it had no personnel there.

On Sunday, the Islamic militant group regained control of the country 20 years after it was ousted from power by U.S.-led forces, with President Ashraf Ghani fleeing Afghanistan following the Taliban's seizure of the capital.

Japan has been actively involved in Afghanistan's reconstruction from a U.S.-led war against al-Qaida, hosting meetings in 2002 and 2012 that gathered donor countries and international organizations together to discuss the development of the conflict-ravaged nation.

As of November 2020, Japan had provided Afghanistan with around $6.8 billion in reconstruction assistance since 2001. The Japanese government has also pledged additional support amounting to approximately $720 million for the period between 2021 and 2024.

The United States launched the war against Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks orchestrated by al-Qaida, which was under the protection of the Taliban.

Following the removal of the Taliban, the international community worked to rebuild Afghanistan under a democratically elected government.

"Our 20 years of efforts since the terrorist attacks in September 2001 could go down the drain," a senior Foreign Ministry official said, expressing concern over Afghanistan possibly becoming a base for terrorists again and the negative economic impact that would have on neighboring countries.

The official added that how the Taliban will rule Afghanistan and whether the country will return to how it was before the 2001 terror attacks "must be closely watched."

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