A special flight chartered by the French government to bring back its nationals whom it had called on Tuesday to leave Afghanistan took off from Kabul on Saturday, July 17, in the morning, bound for Paris, according to AFP journalists.
About a hundred passengers boarded this flight, half of them French nationals, the other Afghans who worked for France in Afghanistan – at the embassy or in French organizations – and their families, according to a diplomatic source.
The French Ambassador to Afghanistan, David Martinon, was present at the airport to greet in particular the Afghan employees of the embassy.
No other flight planned
‘It is really difficult to leave Afghanistan, because on the one hand, it is my country, my homeland, I am leaving my parents, my family, my relatives (…). I’ve spent my whole life here in Afghanistan, ‘said Baker Ahmad Arefi, an Afghan employee since 2006 by the French embassy in Kabul, at the airport. ‘But on the other hand, the situation really forces me to leave Afghanistan because in recent months life has become dangerous. Between the two, we had to choose, so I chose to leave Afghanistan and go to France. ‘
France had called on Tuesday all its nationals to leave Afghanistan ‘because of the evolution of the security situation in the country and given the short-term prospects’ and chartered this flight to’ allow the return of all of the French community ‘.
The French embassy in Afghanistan warned on Tuesday that ‘no additional special flight could be chartered’ and that it would ‘no longer be able to ensure the safety of the departure’ of nationals who chose to stay.
Between 60 and 100 French people registered at the French consulate in Afghanistan chose not to take this flight, said a source familiar with the matter in Paris. The French diplomatic representation in Kabul remains open and continues to operate for the time being.
The Afghan staff of the embassy, those of the institutions which depend on it, as well as those of the French NGO Amitié franco-afghane (Afrane), have been evacuated in recent weeks to France, under the right of asylum, a indicated David Martinon in his speech on the occasion of the national holiday of July 14th.
The Taliban launched an all-out offensive against Afghan forces in early May, when foreign forces, present in the country for 20 years, began their final withdrawal, scheduled to be completed by the end of August.
They have seized vast rural territories in the face of Afghan forces which, deprived of crucial American air support, have so far offered little resistance and no longer essentially control the main roads and the provincial capitals.
The insurgents recently took control of several districts in provinces neighboring Kabul, raising fears that they will soon attack the capital and its airport, the only way out of the city for foreigners.