Denmark and Norway to shut embassies in Afghanistan, evacuate staff

Denmark's Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod speaks during a news conference as the country is to temporarily close its embassy in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, and evacuate the employees, in Copenhagen, Denmark, August 13, 2021. Ritzau Scanpix/Nils Meilvang via REUTERS

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) -Denmark and Norway are closing their embassies in Kabul for now and evacuating their staff as the security situation worsens in Afghanistan, the Nordic countries said on Friday.

The Taliban tightened their grip on Afghanistan on Friday, wresting control of its second and third biggest cities while Western embassies prepared to send in troops to help evacuate staff from the capital.

“We have decided to temporarily close our embassy in Kabul,” Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod told journalists, adding that the evacuation would be closely coordinated with Norway, with which it shares a compound.

Norway’s Foreign Minister Ine Soreide later said it would also shut its embassy and evacuate Norwegian diplomats, local employees and their close relatives.

Finland will organize a charter flight to evacuate 130 Afghans, including staff who had worked for Finland, the European Union or NATO and their close relatives, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said in a statement.

The Finnish embassy in Kabul would remain open for now.

The defeats have fueled concern that Afghanistan’s U.S.-backed government could fall to the insurgents within weeks as international forces complete their withdrawal after 20 years of war.

(Reporting by Stine Jacobsen in Copenhagen and Gwladys Fouche in Oslo; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Jonathan Oatis and Richard Chang)

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