(Reuters) – Saudi diplomats have left Afghanistan for “training” and will return, the Taliban administration said on Monday, though three sources familiar with the matter said security concerns had contributed to their departure.
A diplomatic source and two other sources said Saudi Arabia’s diplomats had left by air and relocated to Pakistan late last week due to warnings of heightened risks of attacks in the Afghan capital Kabul.
The Taliban said their departure was temporary and not for security reasons. “Some employees of Saudi Arabia’s embassy have gone out for a kind of training, and will return,” Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesperson for the Taliban administration, said.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry referred Reuters to the Saudi embassy in Islamabad for comment. Riyadh’s government communication office and foreign ministry did not respond to requests for comments.
It was not immediately clear how long the Saudi diplomats intended to be based outside Afghanistan, or how many had left the country.
Several countries have run their Afghanistan embassies from Pakistan and Qatar since U.S.-led foreign coalition forces withdrew from the country and the Taliban took over in 2021 after a 20-year insurgency.
Some nations have kept a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan, including Russia, whose embassy was the target of a suicide bombing at its front gate that killed two Russian staff members and four Afghan citizens.
Islamic State militants claimed the attack and several others targeting foreigners, including one on a hotel popular with Chinese businessmen and a failed assassination attempt on Pakistan’s head of mission at his embassy.
Islamic State has also for years targeted security installations in Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter and birthplace of Islam.
The Taliban have said they are focused on eliminating Islamic State and other security threats and will make all efforts to protect foreign interests in Afghanistan.
(Reporting by Reuters newsroom; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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