KABUL: Afghan authorities pledged on Friday to protect embassies and foreigners working in the country after Australia shut its Kabul mission over security fears in the wake of the withdrawal of US-led troops.
As Afghan government forces have been locked in heavy fighting with the Taliban in half of the country’s 34 provinces since early May, after the US announced it would pull out its remaining soldiers by Sept. 11 the Australian government said earlier this week it would close its embassy due to “an increasingly uncertain security environment.”
Despite repeated attempts to make contact, Australian diplomats were unavailable for comment, but an official at the Afghan foreign ministry who is not authorized to speak to the media confirmed to Arab News that the embassy suspended its operations on Friday.
Following Australia’s move, the Afghan interior ministry said that it had the means to ensure a “safe environment” to foreign nationals.
“We have the responsibility for providing security for the embassies and foreigners working in Afghanistan,” Tariq Arian, a spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry, told Arab News.
“We have measures in place in this regard and the necessary commitment to provide a safe environment for them here,” he said.
As Australia closed its mission, safety assurances came also from the Taliban, who pledged not to pose a danger to foreign diplomats, international organizations, journalists and civil society members.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan assures all of them that we will not pose any threats to them and instead will provide them a safe environment,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Arab News.
However, as the prospects of reconciliation between Kabul and the Taliban to end decades of conflict are waning, there are concerns that the latter may seek to take power by force.
In late April, the US State Department ordered nonessential government employees to leave Afghanistan over security threats as Washington failed to observe a May 1 deadline to withdraw its troops, to which the previous US administration agreed in a deal signed with the Taliban in February last year.
According to foreign media reports, the UK has also considered relocating its embassy closer to the American mission in the heart of Kabul’s so-called “Green Zone.”
While more fighting between the Taliban and Afghan government forces is expected in the near future, Torek Farhadi, an adviser to former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, told Arab News that it would not reach to the gates of Kabul and other major cities.
He added that the embassy closure was a “one-sided decision” taken by Australian authorities, which reflected badly on Afghanistan’s foreign policy.
“This shows weakness of the diplomacy of Afghanistan,” he said, adding that the government has failed to convince Australians that it has the “means and commitment to safeguard all of the embassies in Kabul and other major cities.”