Japan continued efforts Thursday to evacuate its nationals and local staff working at its embassy and other Japanese organizations in conflict-torn Afghanistan, officials said, amid chaos at the international airport in Kabul following the takeover by the Taliban.
Japan has already sent three Self-Defense Forces transport planes to Islamabad in neighboring Pakistan and dispatched about 10 personnel from its defense and foreign ministries to Kabul to coordinate with U.S. forces, which are in control of the airport.
Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said in a meeting with other members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that the aim is to accomplish the evacuation by Friday, citing how it would be hard to airlift beyond Aug. 31 when the United States pulls out its troops. Government sources also said Japan aims to finish its evacuation mission by Friday.
Islamabad is the SDF’s base of operation for the mission which, according to a diplomatic source, will involve evacuating up to about 500 people from Afghanistan.
SDF aircraft landed at Kabul airport twice on Thursday afternoon, but failed to airlift any people who wanted to flee the country as they were unable to reach the airport, according to the sources.
Japan and other countries have been rushing to evacuate their citizens out of the country, after Afghanistan was thrown into turmoil after the Taliban earlier this month returned to power 20 years after being ousted by U.S.-led forces.
President Ashraf Ghani fled the country following the Taliban’s seizure of the capital on Aug. 15.
As of Thursday, the security situation around the airport remains volatile and uncertainty looms over whether evacuation efforts can run smoothly until the Aug. 31 deadline for completing the withdrawal of American troops.
Sources familiar with the matter said there are reports of people wanting to flee the country unable to reach the airport on their own as they struggle to get through checkpoints by the Taliban around the airport.
The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan issued a security alert on Wednesday, advising U.S. citizens not to travel to the airport and avoid airport gates “because of security threats outside the gates.”
Britain has also warned its citizens to stay away from the airport and cited the “ongoing and high threat of a terrorist attack.”
Setting the stage for the evacuation mission, the SDF have dispatched a C-2 plane, which can carry up to 110 people excluding crew members, as well as two C-130s, each with a capacity of transporting up to 92 people excluding crew members.
The C-2 plane and another government plane will transport SDF personnel, equipment and supplies between Islamabad and Kabul, while the C-130s will be used for evacuation purposes.
According to the Defense Ministry, the mission will involve about 290 personnel, and it will be the first time the SDF have evacuated foreign nationals from a country.
Japanese diplomats were evacuated to Dubai last week after the embassy in Kabul was shut on Aug. 15, but some Japanese working for international organizations remain there.
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