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Not all Irish citizens may be evacuated from Kabul by end of August, Simon Coveney says

Afghan people who were transported from Afghanistan, disembarking a plane on August 23 2021, at the Torrejon military base as part of the evacuation process in Madrid. Picture by Andrea Comas, AP
Dominic McGrath, PA

The Republic's Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has said not all Irish citizens may be evacuated from Afghanistan by the end of the month.

US President Joe Biden is not expected to delay the departure of US troops from Afghanistan to allow more people to be evacuated, as the August 31 withdrawal deadline looms.

Yesterday, the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that a team of Irish diplomats supported by the military has been deployed to Afghanistan to help evacuate any citizens remaining in the country.

Mr Coveney said today: “I don’t want to raise expectations unrealistically, that everybody will get out as a result of this.

“Even beyond the 31st of this month, into September, we will continue to work with Irish citizens if they’re in Kabul.”

The team, made up of two diplomats and defence personnel, is expected to be in Kabul for a number of days.

“Everybody knows, unless President Biden makes a decision today to work with partners to extend their presence there beyond the 31st, everybody knows we’re talking about days not weeks,” Mr Coveney said.

Ten Irish citizens have already been evacuated with the assistance of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the embassy in Abu Dhabi.

Those seeking evacuation have been described as mainly family groups. Some 36 Irish citizens and family members are still in Afghanistan.

Mr Coveney said: “The remaining are 24 Irish citizens and 12 non-Irish family members that have visas to come to Ireland. They are predominantly Afghan-Irish, if you like. They’re Irish citizens and we’re absolutely committed to them.”

He added that evacuating them is more complicated, because they need to leave as family units.

He also said that “because they are Afghan as well as Irish, it is more difficult get them through the crowd and into the airport”.

“We have places on planes for all of these 36 people.”

Mr Coveney said sending the Irish team to Kabul is not without risk, but he told Newstalk: “On balance, this is the right thing to do.”

This morning, independent TD Cathal Berry, a former second in command of the Army Ranger Wing, called it a “small and focused” mission.

“They’re going to make a significant difference on the ground in Kabul,” he said.

He said the work would be “challenging”.

“It’s very much well within their comfort zone.

“There is never a zero risk associated with these types of operations,” Mr Berry told RTÉ radio.

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