The great game

French citizens offered last chance to leave Afghanistan today

General Austin "Scott" Miller, commander of U.S. forces and NATO's Resolute Support Mission, hands over his command to U.S. Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, during a ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan July 12, 2021.
General Austin "Scott" Miller, commander of U.S. forces and NATO's Resolute Support Mission, hands over his command to U.S. Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, during a ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan July 12, 2021. via REUTERS - HCNR PRESS OFFICE

French citizens have one last chance to leave Afghanistan via official transport today. On Tuesday, the French embassy in Kabul urged all its citizens to leave Afghanistan immediately because of growing security risks.

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The French Embassy in Kabul published a message urging “the entire French community” in Afghanistan to leave, citing “the evolution of the security situation in the country” and the “short-term prospects” for Afghanistan. It didn't elaborate.

The message said that France can no longer guarantee safe evacuation after Saturday’s government-chartered flight to Paris. The special flight will take off on 08.05 local time from Kabul and arrives in Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport at 13.10 French time. 

The announcement comes as the US winds up its 20-year war in Afghanistan. Other NATO troops having already left. 

Taliban fighters are taking control of large swaths of the country, surging through district after district. 

The outgoing US commander warned that increasing violence is seriously hurting Afghanistan’s chances of finding a peaceful end to decades of war.

Last week, China sent a flight to bring home 210 of its nationals from Afghanistan.

Women's rights

Meanwhile, women’s rights supporters and faith leaders are calling for a United Nations peacekeeping force for Afghanistan to protect hard-won gains for women over the last two decades as American and NATO forces complete their pullout from the war-torn country and a Taliban offensive gains control over more territory. 

Under the Taliban, women were not allowed to go to school, work outside the home or leave their house without a male escort. And though they still face many challenges in the country's male-dominated society, Afghan women have increasingly stepped into powerful positions in numerous fields. Many now fear the departure of international troops and a Taliban takeover could take away their gains.

In a 14th of May letter obtained by The Associated Press, 140 civil society and faith leaders from the U.S., Afghanistan and other countries “dedicated to the education and rights of women in Afghanistan” asked US president Joe Biden to call for a U.N. peacekeeping force “to ensure that the cost of U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan is not paid for in the lives of schoolgirls.”

The great game

It is far from clear who is going to fill the gap left behind by the US when they leave on the 11th of September. Pakistan, known to be a supporter of the Taliban, is afraid India will try and get a bigger foothold in Afghanistan, while China -which had earlier expressed concern about the US withdrawal - is interested in strengthening its position in the country.

Pakistan is host to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the most important leg of Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative and chaos in Afghanistan risks harking China's investments in the region.

China's Global Times, a propaganda outlet close to the Communist Party, reported on 15 July that Beijing is "ready to facilitate" talks between the Kabul government and the Taliban. The Hong Kong based South China Morning Post reported that in return, a Taliban spokesperson called China "a welcome friend" for "reconstruction" of Afghanistan. 

But it is far from sure if China will be successful: Afghanistan, subject of what was called "the great game" of strategic control over the region, has been nicknamed the "graveyard of empires”. The ancient Greeks, the Mongols, the Mughals, the British, the Soviet Union and the United States came, occupied, and left after losing countless battles and facing heavy losses. 

(with agencies)

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