The speed and ferocity of the Taliban’s advance through Afghanistan had caught world leaders off guard, with many countries still scrambling to prepare an official response to the onslaught. With four key cities in the south overrun in the past 24 hours, the Islamist militant group now controls territories that encircle the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Earlier on Friday the first of a planned 3,000 US troops touched down at Kabul Airport to help with a partial evacuation of the US embassy. Airlifts out of the country for Afghans who worked with the US military during the 20-year war are also expected to be sped up.
European countries have also begun to announce their own contingency plans. On Thursday and Friday, several countries announced they would be evacuating their citizens and diplomatic staff – in some cases bringing Afghan colleagues with them.
Here’s what we know so far.
Germany sends extra security to Kabul embassy
Germany’s foreign minister said on Friday the number of embassy staff in Kabul will be brought down to “the operationally necessary, absolute minimum” due to the tense situation in the capital.
Heiko Maas told reporters that a “crisis support team” was being dispatched to the Afghan capital to beef up security at the embassy. He called on all German citizens to leave Afghanistan immediately.
Planned charter flights for diplomatic staff and Afghan locals employed by the embassy will be brought forward. Maas said visas for the Afghan citizens would be issued in Germany to speed up the evacuation.
Denmark to resettle Afghan staff going back two years
The Danish Foreign Ministry has said staff at the Danish embassy, as well as any citizens employed by the embassy or the armed forces in the past two years, were being offered evacuation.
Authorities had said on Thursday this would “be carried out gradually so that the embassy in Kabul can continue to function”. But on Friday, foreign minister Jeppe Kofod then told a press conference a decision had been taken to temporarily close it.
Denmark was also the first EU country to offer residency to Afghan nationals it has worked with, either at the embassy or with the army in the last two years. About 45 people, their spouses and children will receive temporary residency for two years and can then apply for a permanent permit.
Spain to evacuate Afghan translators
Spain is poised to evacuate all diplomatic staff from its embassy barely a week after appointing a new ambassador to Afghanistan, Ricardo Loca, who was supposed to arrive in Kabul next week.
In a statement on Friday, Spain’s defence ministry said the country would also evacuate Afghan translators who have worked with Spanish forces in Afghanistan “as soon as possible.” The Foreign and Interior ministers, it added, were working to bring them and their families to Spain “in the coming days”.
Italy consulting with the US over Afghanistan turmoil
The Italian government has yet to make a formal announcement about how it will respond to the situation in Afghanistan. But on Friday a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said the country was keeping in close contact with the US State Department.
Secretary-general Ettore Sequi, a former diplomatic advisor in Afghanistan, spoke on Thursday with US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman. The Ministry said the pair “agreed on further reinforcement of coordination between the embassies”.
Norway to close embassy in Kabul
Norway’s Foreign Minister Ine Soreide said on Friday that the country would also shut its embassy in Kabul, where it shares a compound with Denmark, and would evacuate Norwegian diplomats, Afghan embassy employees and their close relatives.
In late June Norway stopped deportations of failed Afghan asylum seekers because of the volatile situation. The decision is set to be reassessed in September 15.
UK sends in troops to speed up flights from Kabul
The British Embassy in Kabul has also announced it will be reducing staff to a minimum, urging all citizens to leave the country. The UK is also flying up to 600 troops into the country to help with the evacuations.
The government has a resettlement program in place for Afghans who worked as interpreters with the Armed Forces. More than 1,300 people have been resettled since the scheme launched in May but ex-army commanders have called for it to be expanded to cover those who lost their jobs before 2021.
Sweden to keep operating in Afghanistan ‘for as long as possible’
Sweden has an evacuation plan in place for contingencies and 500 residency permits earmarked for Afghan colleagues if they need to resettle. But Foreign Minister Ann Linde told the country’s TV4 channel on Friday that there was no date currently set to evacuate the embassy in Kabul.
“We want the embassy open for as long as possible,” she said. “We will take care of both the seconded and the local employees.”
Finland to resettle 130 Afghan colleagues
The Finnish embassy will remain open for now but authorities have said they are keeping the situation under “constant review”.
On Friday, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said the country would also be offering residence permits to a maximum of 130 Afghans, including staff worked for Finland, NATO or the EU since 2001, together with their families.