"We are following with great concern" the situation in Afghanistan, where the Taliban are about to regain power, João Gomes Cravinho, Defence Minister, told RTP.

"Our immediate objective is to support, create conditions so that the officials who worked for NATO, or the EU, or with the United Nations can leave the country safely and, in this matter, Portugal will obviously participate in a collective effort that is now taking place," said the minister.

João Gomes Cravinho also said that, "at this first moment", the Portuguese Government is "informing the EU, NATO and United Nations authorities" of its "availability to support, to receive Afghans in Portuguese territory".

The number of refugees to be received in Portugal is still being evaluated but, as he said, "in relation to the airport workers" in Kabul of the Portuguese force deployed in the country in recent years, "there are 243 Afghan officials, plus their families, who will need to leave the country".

As for the refugees, Portugal will receive Afghan citizens "from a European country, possibly Turkey", since it does not have the means to get them to Kabul, explained Gomes Cravinho.

The defence minister said he has no information of Portuguese citizens in Afghanistan at this time, but indicated that this information can only be confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

João Gomes Cravinho stressed that the situation in Afghanistan is a matter in which Portugal "will be very actively engaged, with the member states of the European Union, in the search for a common European position and with the NATO countries" and that "it will not have an initiative own, nor isolated".

On the return of the Taliban to power and the future regime in Afghanistan, the minister argued that it is necessary "to see to what extent it is possible to dialogue with the new authorities".

"More than their words and more than their reputation, which is very worrying, it matters how they will behave and our expectation is that the future regime in Afghanistan will behave in accordance with all international norms, whether in its external dialogue, whether in the way it treats its population," he stressed.

As he argued, "the fundamental thing is respect for human rights, particularly the rights of women and girls who suffered terrible abuses between 1996 and 2001 when the Taliban were in power."

"The expectation is that behaviour will be different now. This will naturally be a bridge to a dialogue with the international community. If there is no such bridge, it will be extremely difficult to have a productive dialogue with the Taliban regime," stated Gomes Cravinho.

According to the minister, at the moment there is still control by international forces at the airport in Kabul, which can be used to support the departure of the Afghans.

At the moment, the European Union does not have national forces on the ground, he said.

João Gomes Cravinho criticised the agreement signed between the United States and the Taliban in February 2020 on the withdrawal of foreign army from Afghanistan.

"After that agreement, what is happening today would happen at some point and, unfortunately, this agreement between the United States and the Taliban was done in an extremely imperfect way, it was done with a unilaterally negotiated schedule for the withdrawal of foreign army by the United States and not by NATO," said the minister.

The government official reinforced that "this outcome became inevitable" and that "it was a matter of a few more months or less" for it to happen.

"There are many lessons to be learned from this process, which is a deeply unfortunate process, which Western countries cannot be proud of," the defence minister said.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who today left Afghanistan when the Taliban were at the gates of the capital, acknowledged tonight that "the Taliban have won" and said he had fled the country to "avoid a bloodbath".

“The Taliban won […] and are now responsible for the honour, ownership and self-preservation of their country,” he said, in a message posted on Facebook.

The Taliban entered the Afghan capital on 16 August after a military-lightning offensive. Three of its senior officials have stated that the rebels have taken over the presidential palace and are holding a security council.

Meanwhile, Al-Jazira television station is broadcasting footage of a large group of Taliban fighters inside the presidential palace in the Afghan capital.

They are now expected to announce the takeover from the palace, renaming the country the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”.

A spokesman for the radical Islamic movement, which ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, told the BBC on 16 August that the Taliban intend to take power in Afghanistan "in the coming days" through a "peaceful transition", 20 years after they were overthrown by a US-led coalition for their refusal to hand over al-Qaida leader Usama bin Laden after the 11 September, 2001 attacks.