India on Sunday said it has temporarily evacuated officials from its consulate in Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city, as Taliban forces try to capture territory across the country during the withdrawal of American troops.
“Due to the intense fighting near Kandahar city, India-based personnel have been brought back for the time being,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in a statement. “India is closely monitoring the evolving security situation in Afghanistan. The safety and security of our personnel is paramount.”
Bagchi denied that India had shut down operations at its consulate in Kandahar. “I want to emphasise that this is a purely temporary measure until the situation stabilises,” the spokesperson added. “The consulate continues to operate through our local staff members.”
Reports said India has brought back 50 diplomats and other staff members via a special Indian Air Force flight. The spokesperson has not confirmed the figures.
On Friday, a delegation of Taliban officials in Russia said the insurgent group controlled around 85% of Afghanistan’s territory, a claim that the government denied and called propaganda campaign. This was considerably higher than previous Taliban statements, which had said that more than a third of the country’s 421 districts were in their control.
Hours later at a joint press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had said India was concerned at the “direction of events” in Afghanistan.
Last week, the Indian embassy had asked all citizens visiting, staying and working in Afghanistan to exercise utmost caution and avoid all types of non-essential travel due to rising incidents of violence in various parts of the country.
Since United States President Joe Biden announced in April that he would pull back troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban have taken control of several districts. In the last few weeks, the group has seized border crossings with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Iran. Taliban fighters also attacked a prison on the outskirts of Kandahar city, Al Jazeera reported.