France Asks Citizens to Leave Afghanistan, Organizing Evacuation Flight for Weekend

As Afghan and Taliban officials plan to meet and discuss the future of Afghanistan, France showed increased signs of concern by urging its citizens to leave the war-torn country and arranging an evacuation flight Saturday from Kabul.

Though France is urging its citizens to evacuate, there is no sign the French Embassy will close. Australia closed its embassy, and while the U.S. Embassy said it has no plans of evacuating, the staff has been downsized. The U.S. also announced its visa section had reopened after a temporary closure due to the pandemic.

In addition to the evacuations and closures by other nations, thousands of Afghans are trying to leave their own country as well due to anxieties over the future. Former President Hamid Karzai called on citizens to remain in Afghanistan to create a better future.

"This country has everything, youths, educated people," he said. "I call on the young generation to not leave your country, stay here. ... You must trust in your country, peace will come."

Karzai also expressed hopes of a woman president in Afghanistan one day, urging women to stay at their jobs and further their education.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Afghani Migrants
Some 200 to 300 migrants, many of whom are from sub-Saharan Africa or Afghanistan, entered the gymnasium in Paris' 11th arrondissement, with the support of Collectif requisitions. In growing concerns over the future of Afghanistan, France urged its citizens to evacuate the country, arranging an emergency flight from Kabul for the weekend. Bertrand Guay/AFP via Getty Images

A high-powered Afghan government delegation, which will include the head of the country's reconciliation council, is to meet the Taliban in Doha to jump-start a long-stalled peace process, an Afghan official said Tuesday.

The Taliban were expected to bring their senior leaders to the table when the two sides meet, possibly on Friday, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters. The Taliban maintain a political office in the Qatari capital of Doha.

The renewed push to reach a peace deal comes as the U.S winds down its military presence in Afghanistan. Outgoing U.S. commander Gen. Scott Miller recently warned that increasing violence seriously hurts Afghanistan's chances of finding a peaceful end to decades of war.

At the same time, Taliban fighters have taken control of large swaths of the country. Although the exact number of districts now under Taliban control is not known, it is believed they now rule in more than a third of Afghanistan's 421 districts and district centers.

Several of the districts are strategic, bordering Iran, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The surge has also exposed weaknesses in the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces. Many districts fell without a fight and more than 1,000 soldiers fled to Tajikistan. There have been repeated reports of troops not being resupplied or being left without reinforcements. They are often outgunned and outnumbered by their Taliban adversaries.

The Doha talks will be led by senior government official Abdullah Abdullah, who heads Afghanistan's reconciliation council.

Karzai is also expected to be among the delegates. The negotiations are aimed at ending the violence that has steadily increased since the U.S. signed a deal with the insurgent movement in February last year.

Also Tuesday, an explosion rocked the capital of Kabul on Tuesday, killing four people and wounding 11 others, according to police spokesman Ferdaws Faramaz.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. The Taliban and government accuse each other of carrying out attacks in the capital, while the Islamic State group often is the only one to claim an attack.

Former President Karzai
Afghanistan's former President Hamid Karzai speaks during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, July 13, 2021. Former President Karzai calls on both the Afghan government and the Taliban to resume negotiations and end fighting in the country. Rahmat Gul/AP Photo