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Saudi diplomat exits Kabul, exodus feared

ISLAMABAD: Saudi diplomat exits Afghanistan in wake of country’s deteriorating security situation sparking fear that at least three other countries were also planning to close their embassies in Afghanistan. While Taliban administration confirmed the media that Saudi diplomat exits Kabul, it brushed aside the report of staff’s permanent withdrawal. It said, “Saudis have told us that they have withdrawn emb­a­ssy staff for a week-long training”.

Dawn news reports that “a Reuters report claimed on Monday that the Saudi diplomat had left by air and relocated to Pakistan late last week. But there has been no acknowledgement of this, either from Kabul or the Foreign Office in Islamabad.”

The Exodus Feared

As the Saudi diplomat exits from Kabul, the reports of exit of UAE, Qatari and Russian missions in Kabul also emerged.

The Afghan official, on condition of anonymity though denied rumors about the closure of the UAE’s mission. He added that the UAE did not have an ambassador in Kabul. While the embassy was still being run by several envoys.

Kabul’s Diplomatic Dereliction

Although the US and European countries have yet to reopen their embassies in Kabul, Pakistan was among the handful of countries that continued to retain a diplomatic presence there. These were Russia, China, Turkey and Iran.

But Pakistan’s charge d’affaires in Afghanistan, Ubaidur Rehman Nizamani, came under militancy attack on December 02, last year. The militant Islamic State-Khurasan (IS-K) group had claimed the attack.

Though he survived the assassination attempt, he has yet to return to his post.

Sources in the Pakistan embassy in Kabul however also dismiss the report of evacuation of diplomats. The official sources in Islamabad insist that the country is still waiting for security assurances from the Afghan administration. Before the country sends back its diplomat there.

resurge of Militant Factions while Taliban downplay the threat

The same day Mr Nizamani was attacked, gunmen had stormed the central office of Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan while its chief Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was delivering a Friday sermon. Guards there killed two attackers, who were also said to be IS-K men.

Reports suggest that an IS-K resurgence has made foreign missions in the country uneasy. With the group claiming attacks on Pakistani and Russian embassies and a hotel run and frequented by Chinese nationals.

While Taliban officials always downplay any threat, the international community is wary of their claims.

The Aftermath of US Troops Withdrawal

In the immediate aftermath of the US evacuation from Kabul, the Islamic State-Khurasan (IS-K) group claimed the attack on Kabul International Airport. It claimed at least 183 lives. It has also staged deadly attacks in southern Kandahar and northern Kunduz provinces.

The Threat of Islamic State

Pakistan’s former envoy to Kabul, Mansoor Khan, told that the militant Islamic State group had been a serious threat in Afghanistan for many years, and after the Taliban takeover in Aug 2021, several intelligence agencies have said in their assessments that the number of IS-aligned fighters in various parts of the country has been on the rise.

The Russian & Qatari Engagement

A senior Russian official however on Monday reiterated that his country had no plans to close its diplomatic mission in Kabul.

Zamir Kabulov, director of the Foreign Ministry’s Second Asian Department, is reported as saying “Such thoughts have not even occurred.”

Similarly, the special envoy of Qatar’s foreign minister, Dr Mutlaq bin Majed Al Qahtani, met Taliban ministers on Sunday. They are reported to have discussed a host of “important developments in Afghanistan, especially in politics, economy, development, and education”.

Thee needful to Counter-terrorism

Mansoor Khan is of the view that the Afghan administration should bolster cooperation with its neighbors in counterterrorism actions. If it is to combat IS-K and other terrorist groups, such as the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

“If this cooperation is delayed, [growing] linkages between [IS] and regional terror groups can be harmful to peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region,” he said.

Zahra Sikandar
Written By

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