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Embassies close, diplomats evacuated as Taliban advances on Kabul

"We have decided to temporarily close our embassy in Kabul," said Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod.

As Taliban fighters edged ever closer to Afghanistan's capital Kabul on Saturday, a slew of foreign embassies continued to remove their diplomats from the country.

"We have decided to temporarily close our embassy in Kabul," Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod told a news conference Friday. He added that the evacuation would be closely coordinated with Norway, which shared their compound and had also decided to remove its staff.

Switzerland was also in the process of removing its nationals from the country, State Secretary Livia Leu told a news conference Friday in the capital Bern.

She added that almost 40 local staff at the country's Federal Department of Foreign Affairs in Kabul, and their families, would also be given the opportunity to request a humanitarian visa in Switzerland.

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Elsewhere, the Dutch government said on Friday that it might close its embassy and was working quickly to bring some of its local Afghan staff back to The Netherlands.

Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag told reporters that the Netherlands intends to keep its embassy open as long as possible, but added that it would be difficult if Kabul was captured by the militant group.

Germany's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Heiko Maas, told reporters Friday that they will reduce the workforce of the German Embassy in Kabul, adding that the country would send a crisis support team to Afghanistan.

"I call on all German citizens who are still in Afghanistan to leave the country now," he said.

Finland's embassy would also remain open for now, the country's Foreign Minister Pekka Havisto said Friday. He added that Finland would organize a charter flight to evacuate 130 Afghans, including staff who had worked for his country, the European Union and NATO.

The announcements came after President Joe Biden's administration said Thursday that they would send 3,000 fresh troops to Kabul airport to help with a partial evacuation of its U.S. embassy.

Britain has also said that it will send around 600 troops to Afghanistan to help around 4,000 of its nationals leave the country.

The decisions to evacuate came after the Taliban took a string of provincial capitals, making rapid gains at a speed that even surprised some of the fighters themselves.

By Saturday they had edged closer to Kabul where many Afghans have fled to as the militant group advanced across the country.

Many fear that the Taliban’s strict and austere interpretation of Islam – one where women are largely invisible in public life – will make a comeback, 20 years after the U.S. toppled the regime.

The U.S. toppled the Taliban government after the group sheltered Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks that triggered the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and America’s longest war.

Biden said last month that the U.S. military mission in the country will conclude Aug. 31, earlier than initially announced.

The U.S., led by the special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, will continue to push for a peace agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government at talks currently taking place in Doha, Qatar.