Finland’s Ambassador to Afghanistan surprised by sudden power shift

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 about the events that began unfolding as the country’s government collapsed and the Taliban took control.

The ambassador made the comments on Tuesday as he attended 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.

“Yes, that’s what was believed. But… it happened differently,” he said.

Kosonen was in Finland on holiday when the Taliban took control of the capital, Kabul, on 15 August. At midnight that day, the Finnish Embassy in Kabul was shut down indefinitely.

‘Deeply regrettable’

Now, Finland, which has taken part in peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan since 2002, has received many requests from Afghans looking to leave the country.

“Requests from people who worked for Finland have not arrived in the past couple of days, but there have been quite a number of requests from others,” Kosonen said.

The government has said that Finland is not planning to evacuate, for example, security guards who worked at the Finnish Embassy.

“I understand the position of the government that a limit [on the number of evacuees] needed to be put in place. But of course this is concerning and deeply regrettable for those people. But at the moment, the situation is what it is,” Kosonen said.

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

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

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