France on Tuesday called on all its citizens in Afghanistan to leave the country as the Taliban pressed ahead with a major offensive amid the withdrawal of foreign troops.
"The government will set up a special flight on the morning of July 17th, departing from Kabul, in order to allow the return to France of the entire French community," the French embassy in Kabul announced in a statement, adding that no payment would be necessary to board the plane.
"The Embassy of France formally recommends to all French citizens to take this special flight or to leave the country immediately by their own means”, the communiqué continued.
The embassy said it would not be able to ensure the safe departure of citizens choosing to stay beyond July 17.
France now joins a growing list of countries, including India and China, that have either told their citizens to leave Afghanistan or taken them out of the country.
The Taliban launched an offensive across the country in early May when US-led foreign forces began their final withdrawal, which is now almost complete. Other foreign forces are also leaving though France, which sent troops in 2001 to join the US-led coalition, had pulled out its last soldiers back in 2014.
The hardline fundamentalist Islamist group has now swept through much of the north, and the Afghan government is clinging on to a few provincial capitals that rely on airlifts for supplies.
20 years on
The Taliban were forced from power when a US-led coalition of forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to hunt down Osama Bin Laden, responsible for the September 11th bombing of the World Trade Centre. The Saudi national had been given shelter in Afghanistan.
Since then, there have been democratic presidential elections and a new constitution and the involvement of Nato and UN forces in the country.
But the Taliban staged a dramatic comeback after a long insurgency and have regained territory and power.
Public opinion in the US had grown tired of US participation in the war, which had left thousands of American soldiers dead or wounded, and former US president Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of the remaining US troops before he left office.
US president Joe Biden now wants all US soldiers serving in the country home by September 11th this year, the 20th anniversary of the WTO attack.