Photo credit: Irish Defence Forces (CC BY 2.0

23 Irish left in Kabul as Coveney slams foreign policy “catastrophe”

Simon Coveney said the US withdrawal from Afghanistan was the “most significant foreign policy catastrophe” for decades.

Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has told Newstalk he is “very concerned” about the chaos engulfing Kabul as the Taliban take back control of Afghanistan.

“We are seeing a country collapsing and I think you can only describe this as probably the most significant foreign policy catastrophe in the last 20 years, globally,” Coveney said.

“So many of the Afghan population now are in fear and desperate to get out.

“I think there are a lot of things that we don’t know in terms of what is going to happen in the coming days, weeks and months but I think we can be sure that we are going to see a lot more brutality and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of refugees fleeing across borders.”

The deputy leader of Fine Gael said 15 of the 23 Irish citizens that remain are trying to evacuate the country, as his department works with other EU countries to repatriate them.

Calling the Taliban “regional warlords”, Coveney rejected their pledge to rule in an “open, inclusive Islamic government”, saying there were already reports of “brutality, arbitrary killings, people being stopped and searched, passports being burnt, girls not being allowed go to school and of course, this is only the start.”

“They are Islamic fundamentalists…they don’t believe in democracy or the rules of law,” Coveney said.

“They believe in an extreme form of Islam that is brutal, that is violent, that is repressive – that treats women and girls as if they are not human beings.

“A country now is under the control of these people and it is understandable that you see scenes of chaos in Kabul airport as people desperately try to get out.”

The Minister for Foreign Affairs insisted the UN Security Council would try to ensure “that there isn’t a mass slaughter of people who cooperated with western powers in recent years” following a US withdrawal he described as “one of the most significant strategic errors in foreign policy that I can remember.”

“There are thousands and thousands of Afghan interpreters who would have been working with the US and the UK and other NATO forces and of course many of them feel terribly at risk now.

“I think we can expect very significant and very tragic humanitarian consequences of what happened.

“This is a catastrophic foreign policy failure and we all need to work now to try to deal as best we can with the consequences of that.”

Coveney separately told RTÉ that Ireland will accept 100-150 more refugees from Afghanistan.

“I’ve agreed with Minister (Roderic) O’Gorman that we would certainly make available between 100 and 150 more places in terms of refugees. We’ll be prioritising human rights organisations, media women and girls, obviously, and other family members that are vulnerable,” he said.

“But I suspect in the next few days and weeks we may have to do a lot more than that because those numbers seem very very small given the scale of the humanitarian catastrophe that may start to unfold in the next few days.”

Meanwhile, several people have died after attempting to cling to planes leaving Kabul:

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