Finland evacuates 413 from Afghanistan as Finnish troops return home

Some 45 guards who protected the Finnish embassy in Kabul were left behind.

Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto pictured in Helsinki on 28 August. Image: Jari Kovalainen / Yle

Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto on Saturday said the US helped Finland evacuate an additional 83 people from the Afghan capital on Friday evening after Finnish troops left Afghanistan on Thursday.

These 83 individuals had travelled to the airport on a bus which had been stuck at a Taliban checkpoint 700 metres from the airport for 58 hours. US forces informed Finland on Friday that these 83 people on Finland's evacuation list had been airlifted to safety in an unspecified location.

As of Saturday Finland had evacuated a total of 413 people from the country. These included Finnish citizens, Finnish permanent residents and locally hired embassy workers at the Finnish mission in Kabul as well as their families. Evacuees also included people working with EU and Nato missions.

Speaking to the press on Saturday, Haavisto said the window for evacuations had closed as US forces, who were pivotal in aiding the Finnish evacuation, were leaving Afghanistan.

Dozens left behind

Yle has learned that some 45 guards who protected the Finnish mission in Kabul were left behind. These individuals now fear retribution from the Taliban.

Haavisto said guards on Finland's evacuation list worked in "visible roles" protecting diplomats outside of the embassy compound.

He told the media he could not comment on the situation of any individuals not included on the Finnish government's official evacuation list.

"Most of those evacuated were children," Haavisto said.

Finnish troops return

Finnish troops who supported evacuation efforts in Kabul landed in Finland on Saturday. The Finnish Defence Forces were, however, tight-lipped on the operation's details.

Helsingin Sanomat reported that two military cargo planes landed at Pirkkala airport in Tampere around 8am on Saturday.

Finnish forces left the Afghan capital on Thursday around the same time suicide bombers attacked Kabul airport. The attack did not pose an immediate danger to Finnish troops.

General Timo Kivinen, Commander of the Finnish Defence Forces, commended the Finnish troops in a Defence Forces statement on Saturday.

"You've performed your mission in an exemplary way," Kivinen said.

The operation drew further praise from Defence Minister Antti Kaikkonen (Cen) on Saturday.

"The operation showed how the Defence Forces can act swiftly and professionally in difficult circumstances. We can be proud of their work," he tweeted.

Finnish Foreign Ministry officials were also involved in the operation.

Finnish military personnel arrived in Kabul more than a week ago. The Defence Forces have not said how many troops were in Kabul, though reports have suggested that the group included a few dozen individuals.

This week's All Points North podcast heard from Yle correspondent Maija Liuhto about the situation on the ground in Afghanistan. You can listen to the full podcast using the embedded player here, via Yle Areena, Spotify or Apple Podcasts or on your usual podcast player using the RSS feed.