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Philippines orders mandatory evacuation of Filipinos in Afghanistan

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The Philippine government has ordered the mandatory evacuation of 130 Filipinos in Afghanistan as Taliban forces took control of the capital Kabul.

Alert Level 4—the highest security warning given by the Philippines on countries that pose risks to Filipino travelers and workers due to armed conflict or disaster—was announced by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) late Sunday night.

The DFA cited "worsening security situation in the country" as Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani left Kabul while Taliban militants entered the capital.

"Under this alert level, the Philippine government undertakes the mandatory evacuation of all Filipinos in the area," a DFA statement said.

The Philippine Embassy in Pakistan, which has jurisdiction over Afghanistan, is in close coordination with the DFA on the repatriation of the remaining Filipinos there.

But according to Joseph Glenn Gumpal, leader of the Filipino community in Afghanistan, there are 173 Filipinos there

Interviewed on Dobol B TV on Monday, Gumpal said of the 173 Filipinos, 78 have agreed to join the government's repatriation efforts, while some availed of the repatriation efforts by their respective companies.

"Kasi yung ibang kumpanya may kaniya-kaniyang contingency plan [Some companies have their own contingency plan]," Gumpal said.

Pinoys worried

Recalling the reputation of the Taliban before they were driven away by American forces in 2001, Gumbal said Filipinos in Afghanistan could not help but feel worried with the latest development.

"Talagang kami ay kinabahan din talaga. Panay ang tawag namin sa Philippine Embassy [para tanungin] kailan ba talaga mangyayari ang repatriation kasi natatakot na kami," he said, noting the Taliban's reputation for executions and beheadings.

(We are really worried. We keep calling the Philippine Embassy to inquire about repatriation because we are really scared.)

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the Filipinos will be flown out via chartered flights.

"We're sparing no expense," he said on Twitter.

"We're on this. We're taking out our people with chartered flights," Locsin said, adding he is reaching out to the United States, Manila's "only military ally to watch our back."

Emboldened by the withdrawal of US troops, Taliban fighters have captured 26 out of the country's 34 key cities in less than two weeks. The Taliban was ousted by a US-led coalition in 2001.

On Sunday, Taliban fighters took the eastern city of Jalalabad without a fight. 

Hours later, the Taliban entered Kabul and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani left the country.

Mohammad Naeem, spokesman of the Taliban's political office, on Sunday told Al-Jazeera the war is over in Afghanistan.

He said the form of regime will be clear soon.

Naeem also gave assurance the assurance that the Taliban will not target any diplomatic body or any of its headquarters. The group will also provide safety for citizens and diplomatic missions, he added.

The NATO said it is keeping its diplomatic presence in Kabul and is helping to keep the airport running for evacuations, Reuters reported. — BM/KG/KBK, GMA News

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