“At Kabul airport, there were a thousand dangerous situations”

David Martinon, French Ambassador to Afghanistan, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Paris, September 16, 2021.

David Martinon is French Ambassador to Afghanistan. He had to leave the country at the end of August in the wake of the precipitous withdrawal of American troops and the victory of the Taliban. Before leaving, he supervised, from Kabul airport, where his team had taken refuge, the evacuations of French nationals and Afghan civilians.

When did you realize that Kabul was going to fall?

The final acceleration begins on August 6, when the Taliban take Zaranj, the capital of the province of Nimroz, bordering Iran, which is the crossing point for drug trafficking. Things rushed again on the 12th when three major cities fell: Kandahar, Herat and Lashkar Gah. On the 14th, I wrote to Paris to say that the evacuation had to be speeded up. I finish the note around 10 p.m. and, as I finish it, I learn that Mazar-e Charif has fallen. My hunch at this point is that it is going to be very quick.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Submarine crisis and debacle in Afghanistan looms over UN General Assembly

The next morning, rumors that the Taliban were in the Parliament quarter were initially unconfirmed. The Americans warn us that the security of the green zone is assured until the next day, the 16th, at 3 pm. I bring together the French NGOs to tell them to leave. It was 11 a.m. At 11:32 am, the NATO representative called me and said: “Leave now, they are twenty minutes from the neighborhood. “

Why did you evacuate the embassy on board helicopters?

At this moment, everything is shaken up. We were ready to leave the embassy in two hours, the time to destroy the communication systems, what remained of paper archives, and in particular the consular archives. We had already transferred many files to Paris in June. We had to destroy all the nominative files, which we burned. We had bought cement to neutralize the weapons. We had planned to leave by road to the airport.

But, when you are prepared, it gives you the agility to deal with those who are not. The French then started coming to the embassy, ​​so I couldn’t close it. It was also necessary to take care of other partners who could not evacuate on their own. We sent police to take them to the airport. But this escort being blocked at the airport by the Taliban, we had no other solution than to follow our plan B, an evacuation by helicopter. We had planned for it, but it was not our preferred option.

You have 73.94% of this article left to read. The rest is for subscribers only.

Leave a Comment