Dozens of senior Afghan officials, including spy chief, smuggled to Turkey

Kabul Airport Afghanistan

APPROXIMATELY 40 SENIOR OFFICIALS in the government of deposed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani have been secretly smuggled to Turkey in recent days. They include Afghanistan’s intelligence chief, according to reports in Turkish media. They claim that the Afghan officials were smuggled out of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan by Turkish military and intelligence operatives. The latter reportedly hid the officials among crowds of Turkish citizens who were evacuated from Kabul in recent days, as the Taliban were entering the Afghan capital.

Turkish media said the Turkish embassy in Kabul had developed evacuation plans earlier this summer, as the Taliban were conquering large swathes of territory throughout the countryside, including a number of provincial capitals. These plans were put in place for the benefit of Turkish expatriates who lived and worked in Afghanistan. However, according to reports, Turkish embassy officials also reached out to “Afghan officials, who have close ties with Turkey” and informed them of the evacuation plans.

As Taliban forces began to enter Kabul, Turkish embassy officials put the evacuation plans into action, and invited selected Afghan officials to make use of them. Within hours, a Turkish Airlines passenger plane appeared on the tarmac of the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. Due to a previously agreed-to arrangement between Ankara and Washington, some parts of the airport were being guarded by Turkish troops. These troops reportedly helped guide the evacuees onto the aircraft, while keeping at bay “a large crowd” of people seeking to leave Kabul, who “started to run towards the plane”.

The aircraft eventually left Kabul with 324 passengers on board, including around 40 senior Afghan officials. Among them were Afghanistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, the country’s Second Vice President, Sarwar Danish, as well as Ahmad Zia Sraj, who headed the National Directorate of Security (NDS). Formed in 2002, the NDS was the national intelligence and security service of Afghanistan until it was dissolved by the Taliban earlier this month. It is reported that most of its 30,000-strong force is now dispersed into refugee camps in India, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 24 August 2021 | Permalink