‘I Still Don’t Know How This Happened’: Finnish Ambassador Calls Taliban Takeover ‘Surprising’

Despite following the course of events over the past two years in the war-torn country, Finland’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Pekka Kosonen said he was as surprised as anyone else over the sudden outcome following the Taliban onslaught.

During a meeting of Finnish diplomats in Helsinki, Kosonen said that before the country’s power structure began to fundamentally change in mid-August, he was under the impression that western countries were prepared to support Afghan security forces, both materially and financially, after international troops made their planned withdrawal after a nearly 20-year presence.

“Yes, that’s what was believed. But it happened differently”, Kosonen

said

, as quoted by national broadcaster Yle.

Kosonen was on holiday in Finland when the Taliban smashed the country’s defences and took control of the capital, Kabul, on 15 August. At midnight the same day, the Finnish Embassy in Kabul was shut down indefinitely.

The ambassador noted that the Taliban’s rapid seizure of power came as a surprise to many experts.

“Actually, I still don’t know how this happened. Yes, there was a desire to support Afghanistan”, he said.

Finland, which has taken part in peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan since 2002 despite its formally non-aligned status, has received many requests from Afghans looking to leave the country.


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AP Photo / Tariq Mikkel Khan


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According to Kosonen, the requests are primarily coming from people who worked for Finland, including security guards employed at the Finnish Embassy.

While the government initially refused to evacuate them, prompting condemnation from Kosonen himself, who called the situation “deeply regrettable”, it subsequently made a U-turn, as Foreign Minister Haavisto said the evacuation list was expanded to include 45 former embassy staff and family members and 83 security guards and family members, citing “real danger”.

That brings the total number of Afghans on evacuation lists to 298, including the 170 embassy staff on the original evacuation list.

Earlier, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin claimed that no one imagined the Afghan government would fall in only eleven days, describing the development as ”

very rapid”

.

As late as July, US President Joe Biden said the Taliban’s complete takeover of Afghanistan in the wake of the West’s departure from the country after 20 years of costly military engagement was ”

highly unlikely”

.


*The Taliban is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia and other countries.