Europe

Fact check: French ambassador did not leave Afghan capital Kabul

France”s ambassador to Afghanistan has remained in Kabul to help manage evacuation operations for French citizens and Afghan helpers.

Misleading claims online had falsely suggested that David Martinon had left the Afghan capital on a military plane as the Taliban seized power.

But France had instead moved their embassy operations across the city to Kabul’s airport to continue the evacuation procedures.

On Sunday evening, Martinon uploaded a video to Twitter, showing him gathered with other embassy staff in a military aircraft.

“Leaving the former Green Zone @Kabul,” he said in the tweet.

The tweet was misinterpreted online, with some even comparing the false reports to the actions of other European ambassadors, insinuating that France had abandoned its citizens in Afghanistan.

A number of diplomatic representations left Kabul’s “Green Zone” in the Wazir Akbar Khan district of the city as the Taliban patrols moved through Kabul, and were forced to leave the fortified area of concrete blast walls and checkpoints.

In a later tweet on Monday, Martinon was pictured meeting with other embassy officials in a small room of the airport.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian confirmed in a statement that the country’s diplomats were still in Kabul and described them as “a credit to our country”.

Paris says it is also planning to send a “reinforcement mission” to assist the operations at the airport.

“In view of the extremely rapid deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan, the French authorities have decided to relocate their embassy to the Kabul airport site, which remains operational and active to evacuate all our compatriots who are still in the country,” the statement read.

“The embassy and the crisis and support centre of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs are in contact with the French people who have reported.”

“I would like to thank all the staff of our embassy in Kabul, who are a credit to our country and its values under very difficult operating,” Le Drian added.

A number of French diplomats and elected officials have also responded to the misleading reports online and reaffirmed that Martinon did not leave Kabul.

French MEP Nathalie Loiseau urged people to avoid spreading false claims and criticised the misinterpretations of Martinon’s tweet.

“I doubt the ambassador has much time to think about how to improve his tweets in the current situation,” Loiseau said.

Last week, France announced that it had suspended deportations of Afghan migrants since July as Taliban insurgents made massive territorial gains in the war-torn country.

The country has also welcomed more than 600 Afghan employees and their families since May and has been evacuating its citizens from the country for a month.

“Operations to methodically evacuate our nationals have been underway for weeks and a special flight was chartered as early as 16 July,” said Le Drian.

“France does not forget those who have worked for it,” he added.

“As early as May, thanks to anticipatory planning carried out over the past few months, Afghan employees of French structures in Afghanistan who might be threatened were welcomed in our country with their families.”

Since 2013, more than 1,350 Afghans — including local civilian personnel recruited by the army– have been received in France.

“France intends to do its utmost to continue to provide protection for Afghan civil society figures, rights defenders, artists and journalists who are particularly threatened because of their commitment,” Le Drian stated.

“Every effort is being made to maintain, as far as possible, the capacity to issue visas from Kabul airport … France is committed to solidarity with all those who defend freedom,” he added.



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