Taliban say they won’t allow Afghans to leave country, reject extension of evacuation

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told a press conference on Tuesday that while foreign nationals could continue to travel to the airport, the huge crowds of Afghans who have gathered there in recent days. should return home and not face reprisals from the country’s new leadership.

“The road to the airport is blocked. Afghans cannot take this road to get to the airport, but foreign nationals are allowed to take this road to the airport,” Mujahid said.

“We no longer allow the evacuation of Afghans and we are not satisfied either,” he added.

Afghan doctors and academics “should not leave this country, they should be working in their own fields of specialization,” Mujahid added. “They shouldn’t go to other countries, to these western countries.”

Asked about the Taliban’s statement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said it should not impact the Afghans the United States has made it a priority to leave the country. “No. That’s not how you should read it,” Psaki said.

“Our expectation, which we also conveyed to the Taliban, is that they can get to the airport,” she added later.

Many of those who have fled the country since the Taliban took power are educated people, especially women. The last time the Taliban ruled, women were banned from working and attending schools and universities.

Mujahid also gave assurances that foreign embassies and aid agencies would remain open.

But experts remain skeptical about such promises amid reports of human rights violations and fears that the situation will deteriorate further once most of the international community leaves the country.

G7 leaders were meeting on Tuesday for the first such international forum since the Taliban toppled the internationally-backed Afghan government more than a week ago.

They called on the Taliban to guarantee safe passage for all those who wish to leave Afghanistan after August 31, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday, describing it as the G7’s “number one condition” for the Taliban.

“The number one condition that we set as the G7 is that they must guarantee until August 31 and beyond a safe passage for those who want to go out,” Johnson said after the virtual G7 meeting. leaders.

Biden sticks to his self-imposed deadline

Biden has already requested contingency plans in case the US withdrawal deadline is passed – although operations are proceeding as planned for now. Meeting the schedule will require the cooperation of the Taliban, he said during a press briefing on Tuesday.

“The sooner we can complete the better. Each day of operations carries additional risk to our troops, but completion by August 31 depends on continued Taliban cooperation and access to the airport for those we transport, and not disrupting our operations, ”said the US president.

“In addition, I have asked the Pentagon and the State Department for contingency plans to adjust the schedule if it becomes necessary,” he added.

Biden had faced growing pressure from major US allies, including UK and France, to extend the deadline.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Monday that additional time beyond the August 31 deadline was needed for evacuations.

An Elysee spokesman added on Tuesday that the duration of France’s military evacuation operation depends entirely on when the United States decides to withdraw its troops from Kabul airport.

“We are in the hands of the United States,” the spokesperson said at a press briefing. “What we say to the Americans, of course, is to give ourselves as much time as possible to continue operations.”

Speaking at the White House briefing on Tuesday, Psaki said that if August 31 was the date for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the evacuations would have to end even earlier to allow time to withdraw troops and machinery.

The move will be greeted with dismay by allies who fear there will not be enough time to get their citizens, as well as the Afghans who participated in the war effort, out of the country by the end. of the month.

Despite the pressure on Biden, NATO will also remove its imprint from Afghanistan when the United States withdraws, according to a diplomat familiar with the matter.

The diplomat said people on the ground in Kabul were unhappy with Biden’s decision to meet the deadline, saying there was “a clear disconnect between reality and politics.” They estimated that tens of thousands of people would be left behind due to the August 31 deadline.

CNN has reached out to NATO for comment.

Military advisers had told the White House that the decision on the deadline should be made by Tuesday in order to have enough time to withdraw the 5,800 troops currently on the ground, along with their equipment and weapons.

The United States evacuated a record 12,700 people from Kabul airport between Monday and Tuesday morning, according to a White House official, and another 8,900 people were evacuated by 57 coalition flights. The United States has evacuated some 58,700 people from Afghanistan since August 14.

Meanwhile, it emerged that CIA Director William J. Burns met a senior Taliban leader in Kabul on Monday, in what a US official described as “an exchange of views on what needs to be done. “by August. 31.

The Biden administration has been in regular contact with Taliban officials throughout the evacuation process, both on the ground in Afghanistan and in Doha, Qatar.

But the secret meeting, first reported on Tuesday by The Washington Post, between Burns and the co-founder and deputy head of the Taliban, Abdul Ghani Baradar, constitutes the direct exchange of views at the highest level since the militant group took control of the capital, explained a US official on the matter. told CNN.

Meanwhile, European Union officials said on Tuesday that the bloc’s relations with the new Afghan authorities would be subject to “strict conditions” regarding the “actions and attitudes” of the new regime.

“It is too early to decide on the type of relations which will develop with the new Afghan authorities”, declared European Council President Charles Michel after the meeting with the leaders of the G7.

United States evacuates record number from airport

The number of evacuees in and around Kabul airport rose to around 20,000 over the weekend. But the pace of airlifts has picked up sharply in recent days and as of Tuesday afternoon 4,671 people were waiting for a flight, Lt. Col. Brett Lea told CNN.

The vast majority of those still trying to get out of Kabul were Afghans, the source said, adding that applicants for the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program – a conduit for Afghans who worked for US forces and agencies to leave the country – were again allowed to enter the airport.
Biden decides to maintain August 31 deadline to withdraw from Afghanistan as evacuations accelerate

SIV applicants were told not to go to the airport on Monday as the United States tried to clear backlogs of evacuees and ensure that holders of U.S. passports and green cards boarded the aircraft. ‘a plane leaving Kabul before August 31.

The Pentagon said Tuesday morning that 17 planes from the U.S. military and partner nations had evacuated approximately 16,000 people from Harmid Karzai International Airport in the past 24 hours, with the U.S. Air Force carrying just under 11. 000.

This gave an opening to extend the evacuation, the source said.

“The opening has widened,” they said. SIV holders along with their immediate families and anyone who can “clearly and credibly articulate a clear and credible connection” to the US government could now come out, the source said.

Despite this easing of restrictions, the airport gates remained closed, the source said.

“But the people who are already there or who are individually drawn, they flex a bit,” they said.

About 300 U.S. citizens were brought in overnight and action was coordinated with the Taliban, the source said. However, the closure of the airport gates considerably reduces the number of SIV candidates who can join the base.

Afghan security forces continued to use unofficial means to bring their colleagues and friends to the base, the source said. “I don’t know who the Afghans are again, but it seems like a steady trickle,” they said.

The source also said there has been no progress in evacuating locally employed embassy staff, although planning is underway.

As the backlog of evacuees narrowed in Kabul, tensions were emerging elsewhere on the route that would eventually lead to evacuees resettling outside of Afghanistan.

One of the main crossing points for evacuees, the gigantic US air base in Ramstein in Germany, had reached its capacity of 7,800 evacuees on Monday.

A U.S. Air Force crew prepares to load evacuees onto a C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on August 21.

Heartbreaking reports of executions

The frantic race to evacuate comes amid “poignant and credible reports” of executions of civilians and restrictions on women’s rights under the Taliban in Afghanistan, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Tuesday. male, Michelle Bachelet.

The reports included executions of civilians and members of the Afghan security forces, restrictions on girls’ right to attend schools, recruitment of child soldiers and crackdown on peaceful protests, Bachalet told the Human Rights Council. UN man in Geneva.

“Many people now fear retaliation from the Taliban against those working with the government or the international community; people who have worked to advance human rights and justice; or those whose lifestyles and opinions are simply perceived to be opposed to the ideology of the Taliban, ”Bachalet mentioned.

Reports of violence contrast sharply with Taliban assurances to international media since the capital city was captured more than a week ago.

CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh wrote from Doha, Sheena McKenzie and Ivana Kottasova wrote from London, and Brad Lendon wrote from Hong Kong. Nicole Gaouette, Barbara Starr, Jennifer Hansler, Kylie Atwood, Kevin Liptak, Mick Krever, Inke Kappeler, Sharon Braithwaite, Claudia Rebaza and Amy Cassidy contributed to this report.

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