Foreign ministry voices concern over situation in Afghanistan

Ljubljana – The Slovenian Foreign Ministry has expressed concern over the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. “Violence should be ended, the civilian population, in particular women and children, should be protected, and basic human rights standards should be upheld,” the ministry said on Twitter on Monday.

The ministry told the STA that it was collecting information about possible Slovenian citizens still being in Afghanistan.

It added that no one had asked it for help and that all Slovenian soldiers who had operated in Afghanistan had returned home safely on 20 May.

Unofficially, a few Slovenian civilian citizens were in Afghanistan at the weekend, and they have already left the country. The ministry is checking this information.

Defence Ministry Matej Tonin meanwhile said today that three Slovenian citizens were currently in Kabul, with attempts being made to evacuate them.

There were four Slovenian citizens there until recently, with Slovenia successfully evacuating one of them, the minister added.

The remaining three are still near the Kabul airport, said Tonin, who did not want to identify the Slovenian citizens or explain what they were doing in Afghanistan.

“Taking care of our own citizens is currently our main priority,” he said.

There is no news about the Afghan citizens who had cooperated with the Slovenian Armed Forces and who asked for assistance and protection from possible retribution of the Taliban, either.

The Defence Ministry said on Friday it is in constant touch with them, and that possibilities of providing assistance to them and their family members were still being examined.

According to unofficial information, these are two to four Afghans who cooperated with Slovenian soldiers as interpreters. The number could amount to between ten and fifteen persons, their families included.

It is not publicly known where these people are. Slovenian soldiers operated in Herat in western Afghanistan, which was taken by the Taliban on Thursday night. Currently, evacuations take place only from the Kabul airport.

Tonin said that the Slovenian Armed Forces had cooperated with Italy in Afghanistan, hiring interpreters and other staff through the Italian forces.

The Afghans who cooperated with the Slovenian army had the opportunity to go to safety together with their families with the Italian army, which is what the majority of them did.

Some of them, however, hoped that the situation will improve and did not take this opportunity, and now are still in Afghanistan.

They have turned to Slovenia. which has been working in recent days on logistic details to enable them to leave Afghanistan safely, while the situation was deteriorating virtually on an hourly basis, the minister said.

“Our message to these people is that we will not abandon them, that we will carry out all necessary asylum and other processes in Slovenia … and move them first in a safe country, and then further to Slovenia,” Tonin added.

He said that the Slovenian army knew their names, surnames, locations and their precise number, which was not higher than 20.

“The entire global public, and unfortunately intelligence services as well, are surprised by the fact that practically all Afghan institutions, including the army, disintegrated so quickly. This also causes logistical problems.”

The Foreign Ministry also told the STA that the EU foreign ministers would discuss on Tuesday the situation in Afghanistan in a meeting called by High Representative of the EU Josep Borrell.

Slovenia is in the group of around 70 countries that have called on the Taliban in a statement to enable safe departure of all foreign citizens from Afghanistan and also to Afghan citizens who want to leave the country.