World reacts as Taliban closes in on Afghan capital

World reaction was swift after the Taliban closed in on Kabul as a takeover by the armed group appeared imminent on Sunday.

The group has swept through the country in a devastating week-long offensive after United States-led forces withdrew. Its campaign accelerated to lightning speed in the last week, capturing Kandahar and Herat, the country’s second and third-largest cities, and shocking Western countries as the Afghan military’s defences collapsed.

The Taliban ordered its fighters to hold back from entering Kabul city, and Afghan Interior Minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal said there would be a “peaceful transfer of power” to a transitional government.

Below are world reactions to the Taliban encircling the capital, Kabul:

Pakistan

Pakistan’s foreign office spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri told Geo News TV: “We’re concerned about the increasingly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan … We have not taken any decision to close our embassy.”

European Union

EU Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas said in a tweet: “The clock has run out on how long we can wait to adopt the complete overhaul of Europe’s migration and asylum rules we need.”

Joe Biden

US President Joe Biden said in a statement before the Taliban entered Kabul: “One more year, or five more years, of US military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country.

And an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me.”

United States

The United States is unlikely to change its military strategy in Kabul unless the Taliban affect the evacuation of the embassy, a US official said.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the US had not yet seen the Taliban enter Kabul in a major way.

The official said military helicopters are shuttling between the embassy compound and the airport, where a “core presence” will remain for as long as possible given security conditions.

Russia

Russia’s foreign ministry official Zamir Kabulov said his country is working with other countries to hold an emergency UN Security Council meeting on Afghanistan.

“We are working on this,” Kabulov told Russian news agencies, adding the meeting will take place.

Russia is one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, along with the United States, Britain, France and China.

Kabulov also said Moscow does not plan to evacuate its embassy in Kabul, saying the Taliban had offered Russia and other countries – which he did not name – security assurances for their missions in Afghanistan.

India

The Indian embassy will not shut down in Kabul but officials are working swiftly towards an evacuation plan, a foreign ministry official said.

United Kingdom

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will seek to recall parliament from its summer break over the developing crisis in Afghanistan, domestic media reported.

MPs are likely to be called back for an urgent debate on what Britain – which lost 457 troops in the two-decade war – should do next, Downing Street sources told Sky News and the Press Association.

Albania

Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama said his country will temporarily shelter hundreds of Afghans who worked with the Western peacekeeping military forces and are now threatened by the Taliban.

On his Facebook page, Rama said the US government had asked Albania to serve as a “transit place for a certain number of Afghan political emigrants who have the United States as their final destination”.

“No doubt we shall not say no,” he said.

The Albanian prime minister said that his country stands alongside the United States “not only when we need them for our problems … but even when they need us, any time”.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis called for dialogue to end the conflict in Afghanistan so that its people can live in peace, security and reciprocal respect.

“I join in the unanimous worry about the situation in Afghanistan. I ask you to pray along with me to the God of peace so that the din of weapons ends and that solutions can be found around a table of dialogue,” Francis said to pilgrims and tourists in Saint Peter’s Square.

“Only this way can the martyred population of that country – men, women, elderly and children – return to their homes and live in peace and security in full reciprocal respect,” he said.

Austria

Austria’s Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said the instability will “spill over to Europe”.

“Conflict and instability in the region will sooner or later spill over to Europe and thus to Austria,” Austria’s APA news agency quoted him as saying in announcing an aid conference to support Afghanistan’s Central Asian neighbours.

Sweden

Sweden will evacuate all its embassy staff from Kabul, public service broadcaster Swedish Radio reported, citing sources.

Taliban fighters began entering Kabul on Sunday after taking control of all of Afghanistan’s major cities apart from the capital.