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AIR BRIDGE – The French Foreign and Armed Ministers are expected this Monday, August 23 in the United Arab Emirates, where they will take stock of the French system which has already evacuated more than 1000 Afghans since the return of the Taliban to power in Kabul.
Jean-Yves Le Drian and Florence Parly will go to Al-Dhafra Air Base 104, 30 kilometers from Abu Dhabi, where the French Air Force has set up an airlift to Kabul, have announced the two ministries in a joint statement.
Since August 15, “nearly 100 French nationals, nearly 40 nationals of partner countries and more than a thousand Afghans” threatened for having worked with French institutions and NGOs or because of their involvement in civil society Afghans thus joined France via the Emirates, they specified.
“Thank the UAE authorities for their support”
A sixth plane, carrying 250 French and Afghans, landed Sunday, August 22, in the evening, in Paris, then a seventh overnight from Sunday to Monday with 250 people on board. The first flight brought back 41 people, mostly French, on August 17.
According to Jean-Yves Le Drian, the “main concern is access” to Kabul airport. “It is done in small quantities”. “We still need to increase our coordination locally, with the United States and our partners there,” he added.
In Al-Dhafra, the two ministers will meet “the diplomats, the military, the police and all the personnel who, under extremely difficult conditions, contribute to the conduct of the evacuation operations from Kabul”.
They will also be received by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyane, de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This interview will be an opportunity to “thank the UAE authorities for their support in the conduct of these evacuation operations” and “to underline the excellence of the strategic partnership between France and the UAE”.
France has a permanent military establishment in the Emirates, from where it conducted part of its air operations against the Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq.
Paris in favor of “additional time” for evacuations
Eight days after the Taliban seized power, thousands of people are still massing around Kabul airport in an attempt to flee the country, in an indescribable tension and chaos which complicates the evacuation operations. Seven Afghans died in this gigantic crush, according to the British Ministry of Defense.
Time is running out before August 31, the date set by the US administration for the final withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan.
This schedule is considered increasingly untenable by the partners of the United States and Joe Biden did not rule out Sunday extending the presence of American soldiers, who supervise evacuation operations at the airport. “We need the time to accomplish this duty, it can be counted in days or weeks, not months”, noted Jean-Yves Le Drian in the Journal du Dimanche, before the holding of a virtual G7 summit on Tuesday. “For urgent discussions on Afghanistan”.
This Monday, August 23, the head of French diplomacy went further by affirming that France considered “necessary” an “additional time”. “We are concerned about the deadline set by the United States of August 31st. Additional time is needed to complete the ongoing operations, ”Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters accompanying him to Al-Dhafra Air Base 104.
Since Aug. 14, around 25,100 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan aboard military planes from the United States and allied countries, according to the White House.
See also on The HuffPost: After the arrival of the Taliban, the Kabul airport taken by storm