France urges extension of evacuations from Afghanistan

Baghdad French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian urged on Monday to extend the period allowed for the completion of evacuations from Afghanistan.

“We are concerned about the deadline set by the United States of August 31, and additional time is needed to complete the current operations,” the French Minister said at Al Dhafra air base in the UAE, where Paris is establishing an air bridge.

Le Drian and Defense Minister Florence Parly arrived in the Emirates on Monday to learn about France’s efforts to evacuate more than 1,000 Afghans.

The two Ministers headed to the headquarters of the French forces at Al Dhafra base, about 30 kilometers from the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, where the French army established an air bridge towards Kabul, according to a joint statement.

According to sources close to Le Drian, France “has sheltered approximately 1,200 people, about 100 French citizens, about a thousand Afghans at risk, and dozens of foreign nationals from the European Union and working for the European Union between August 17 and 22.”

While chaos continues in the vicinity of Kabul airport, where an exchange of fire took place on Monday, Le Drian said that “the main concern is access (to the airport), this is currently being done in small numbers,” adding, “We still need to increase our coordination on the ground with the United States and our partners there.”

For his part, the French Ambassador in Kabul, David Martinon, gave a video briefing on the situation at Kabul Airport with the two ministers.

Regarding the three entrances to the airport, he said, “The northern gate (closed) 30 hours ago. The eastern gate is impassable, and convoys can no longer enter it. As for the southern gate, it is open to some extent, but the flow through it is very limited.”

“The closing of these three doors forces us to look for other means,” he added.

For her part, Defense Minister Barley said that her country did not wait “until August 15” to start preparing for the evacuation process.

“We facilitated the process of deporting our citizens and many Afghans who worked with us for several months. We started planning for the airlift before the fall of Kabul” on August 15,’ she explained.

The two French ministers are scheduled to meet “diplomats, military personnel, police officers and all individuals who assist in the evacuation from Kabul in extremely difficult conditions,” according to a French statement.

The two ministers will also meet with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the meeting will be an opportunity to “thank the UAE authorities for their support in leading the evacuations” in addition to “emphasizing the excellence of the strategic partnership between France and the UAE,” according to the statement.

The UAE has become a hub for evacuation operations, and the French authorities are using Abu Dhabi and Dubai as transit points for their nationals and for refugees authorized to be evacuated.”

The United States had set August 31 as the date for the completion of the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, but Biden indicated on Sunday the possibility of extending the period of the US presence at Kabul airport beyond this date in light of the chaos that pervades the evacuations.

Source: National Iraqi News Agency