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Coveney: Irish troops and diplomats stayed in Kabul for 'as long as they safely could'

Irish troops and diplomats stayed in Kabul for "as long as they safely could", the Foreign Affair...
Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

09.55 27 Aug 2021


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Coveney: Irish troops and dipl...

Coveney: Irish troops and diplomats stayed in Kabul for 'as long as they safely could'

Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

09.55 27 Aug 2021


Share this article


Irish troops and diplomats stayed in Kabul for "as long as they safely could", the Foreign Affairs Minister says.

Simon Coveney says 15 Irish people were among those on the first plane out of the Afghan capital after yesterday's attack at Kabul airport.

Two diplomats and nine Army Rangers had been sent to Kabul earlier this week to assist several dozen Irish citizens who were looking to evacuate.

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In total, they helped 26 people leave the country - with Minister Coveney saying some of those "probably wouldn’t have gotten on planes" otherwise.

The Irish team left on the same day of the deadly terror attack outside Kabul airport.

At least 85 people - including 72 Afghans and 13 US troops - were killed in the bomb attacks, with dozens of others injured.

The ISIS-K group - affiliated with the wider Islamic State and hostile to both the Taliban and western countries - is believed to be responsible.

US President Joe Biden has pledged to 'track down' those responsible for the attack and 'make them pay', with plans already being drawn up to strike ISIS-K targets.

Simon Coveney told The Pat Kenny Show it was a "very challenging and incredibly tragic day" yesterday.

Coveney: Irish troops and diplomats stayed in Kabul for 'as long as they safely could'

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He said: “We managed to get our team out yesterday, with the help of the French military in particular - who have been fantastically supportive in recent days.

“We got another 15 people out on a Finnish flight. That Finnish flight was effectively the first plane to take off after the first bomb blew up - anybody who raises the question ‘did we stay as long as we could have to get people out?’ I think has their answer there.

"We stayed as long as we safely could.

“We got them out on time - I’m relieved about that, but also I didn’t sleep well last night having heard many of the stories and seeing the tragedies on the outskirts of the airport.”

"Dangerous and complicated environment"

The Foreign Affairs Minister said the Irish emergency evacuation team was sent into a "dangerous and complicated environment", but were "very successful" in helping people get on planes over the course of 48 hours.

Despite that, there are dozens of others now seeking Irish consular support to leave Afghanistan.

Minister Coveney said: “There are 60 Irish citizens and / or family members who are in Afghanistan who we are now in contact with.

"There are 15 Afghan citizens who are Irish residents - I’ve given the clear instruction that they are to be treated as Irish citizens to help advise them how to keep safe and how to get out of Afghanistan when it’s safe to do that.”

Meanwhile, there are around 150 people who are going to get a family reunification visa, along with around 250 Afghan refugees who’ll receive visa waivers.

Minister Coveney stressed there'll now be "very few countries" with any sort of diplomatic presence in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future.

He said: “We were there effectively until the last 48 hours, when most countries were planning to evacuate their own military people along with as many civilians as they could.

“Effectively, Kabul airport is on the way to being shut down now - as the Americans obviously will be the last to leave.”

He said the task of getting Irish citizens out will be easier if the airport reopens to commercial traffic under Taliban control after the Americans leave on Tuesday.

However, he said others may need to cross land borders into neighbouring countries - with Minister Coveney insisting Ireland remains "deeply committed" to helping citizens and residents however possible.

Main image: People queue up to board a military aircraft of the United States and leave Kabul at Kabul airport. Picture: Xinhua / PA Images

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