Czech Republic scrambles to protect embassy staff and interpreters in Kabul as Taliban advances

As the Taliban advances across the country, fears mount for the safety of civilian collaborators who have helped the Czech army and charities.

 William Nattrass

Written by William Nattrass Published on 13.08.2021 16:36 (updated on 13.08.2021) Time to read: 2 minutes

The Czech government is facing criticism for not acting quickly enough to protect civilian Afghan collaborators of the Czech military as the Taliban sweeps through the country following the withdrawal of Allied forces.

With the last Czech troops having returned home from Afghanistan at the end of June, fears of reprisals for those who worked with foreign forces are mounting.

Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhánek has called a meeting of crisis staff to discuss the protection of employees of the Czech embassy in Kabul. The ministry said that given the unpredictable situation and strict security requirements, it cannot elaborate on further operations of the embassy.

The Save the Interpreters NGO meanwhile condemned the government’s steps to help Afghan interpreters for the Czech army as sluggish and non-transparent. They also criticised the mere offer of financial aid in place of transfer to a secure location, arguing that money will not help those receiving death threats from the Taliban.

No resettlement programme has yet been launched by the government, and Afghan interpreters have no information about Czech support, the group said. Save the Interpreters contrasted the government’s lack of action with the responses of other NATO countries whose resettlement schemes started long ago.

“The Czech Republic has an opportunity to save the lives of people who have helped us. We must not waste this chance due to the election concerns of the governing parties,” said the chairwoman of the Association for Integration and Migration Magda Faltová.

Over the past eight days the Taliban have swept through Afghanistan in the wake of departing Allied forces. They have now re-occupied almost half of the country's provinicial capitals.

As criticism mounts over the Czech government’s lax attempts to help interpreters, the People in Need charity has already withdrawn its foreign staff from Afghanistan. The NGO still has dozens of local employees in Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif in the northern part of the country. These local employees will remain but People in Need spokeswoman Adriana Černá said the situation of humanitarian organisations differs from that of interpreters for armed forces.

“We are in contact with them and looking after their security. If they are threatened, we will deal with the situation at the location,” she said.

Interior Minister Jan Hamáček has meanwhile said the Czech Republic will not follow the example of countries including France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland which have halted deportations of Afghans refused asylum back to their homeland. 34 Afghan nationals are currently being held in detention facilities in the Czech Republic, but it is unclear how many of these have received confirmation of deportation.

The final withdrawal of U.S.-led foreign troops from Afghanistan is scheduled for August 31. 11,500 Czech troops took part in Afghan operations since 2002, 14 of whom died during service.

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