- Taliban promise not to punish soldiers and contractors
- Taliban leader Baradar returns to Afghanistan
- West resumes evacuations after chaos at Kabul airport eases
- Biden, Johnson agree to virtual G7 meeting on Afghanistan
KABUL, Aug. 17 (Reuters) – The Taliban said on Tuesday they wanted peaceful relations with other countries and would respect women’s rights under Islamic law, as they held their first official press briefing since their flash capture of Kabul.
The Taliban’s announcements, in scant detail but suggesting a softer line than during their reign 20 years ago, came as the United States and its Western allies resumed the evacuation of diplomats and civilians in the aftermath of scenes of chaos at Kabul airport as the Afghans invaded the runway.
A White House official said military flights evacuated about 1,100 Americans from Kabul on Tuesday.
As they consolidated their power, the Taliban said one of its leaders and co-founders, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, returned to Afghanistan for the first time in more than 10 years. Baradar was arrested in 2010, but released from prison in 2018 at the request of the administration of former US President Donald Trump to participate in the peace talks.
“We don’t want internal or external enemies,” said the movement’s main spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid.
Women would be allowed to work and study and “will be very active in society but within the framework of Islam,” he added.
As they rushed to evacuate, foreign powers weighed in on how to react after Afghan forces melted down in just days, with what many predicted was a likely rapid collapse in women’s rights.
“If (the Taliban) want any respect, if they want any recognition from the international community, they must be very aware that we will be monitoring how women and girls and, more broadly, the civilian community are treated by them. as they try to form a government, “US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told MSNBC on Tuesday.
US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson have said they have agreed to hold a virtual Group of Seven leaders meeting next week to discuss a common strategy and approach for Afghanistan. Read more
During their rule from 1996 to 2001, also guided by Islamic Sharia law, the Taliban prevented women from working. Girls were not allowed to go to school and women were required to wear wrap-around burqas when going out and only when accompanied by a male parent.
The UN Human Rights Council will hold a special session in Geneva next week to address “serious human rights concerns” following the Taliban takeover, according to a statement from the UN.
Ramiz Alakbarov, UN humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan, told Reuters in an interview that the Taliban had assured the United Nations that they could continue their humanitarian work in drought-stricken Afghanistan. Read more
‘FROM THE WORD TO THE ACTS’
The European Union has said it will only cooperate with the Afghan government after the Taliban’s return to power if they respect basic rights, including those of women.
In Afghanistan, women have expressed their skepticism.
Afghan girls’ education activist Pashtana Durrani, 23, was suspicious of Taliban promises. “They have to follow the speech. At the moment, they are not doing it,” she told Reuters.
Several women were ordered to quit their jobs during the Taliban’s rapid advance through Afghanistan.
Mujahid said the Taliban would not seek revenge on former soldiers and government officials, and granted amnesty to former soldiers as well as contractors and translators who worked for international forces.
“Nobody is going to hurt you, nobody is going to knock on your doors,” he said, adding that there was a “huge difference” between the Taliban today and 20 years ago.
He also said families trying to flee the country at the airport should return home and nothing would happen to them.
RESISTANCE AND CRITICISM
Mujahid’s conciliatory tone contrasted with comments by Afghan First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who declared himself the “legitimate interim president” and vowed not to bow to the new rulers in Kabul. Read more
The support Saleh enjoys in a country weary of decades of conflict was not immediately clear.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the Taliban should allow the departure of all those who wish to leave Afghanistan, adding that NATO’s goal is to help build a viable state and warn that the alliance could strike if the country again becomes fertile ground for terrorism. Read more
The decision of Biden, a Democrat, to stick to the withdrawal agreement reached last year by his Republican predecessor Trump drew much criticism from him and among allies of the United States.
Biden’s approval rating fell 7 percentage points to 46%, the lowest level during his seven-month presidency, according to a Reuters / Ipsos poll on Monday. He also revealed that less than half of Americans liked the way he handled Afghanistan. Read more
Biden said he had to decide between asking US forces to fight endlessly or follow through on Trump’s withdrawal agreement. He blamed the Taliban takeover on the fled Afghan leadership and the military’s reluctance to fight. Read more
Washington was blocking the Taliban from accessing Afghan government funds held in the United States, including about $ 1.3 billion in gold reserves at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, a Biden administration official said . Read more
Reports from Kabul and other offices; Additional reports by Rupam Nair; Written by Jane Wardell, Robert Birsel, Jane Merriman, Patricia Zengerle and Lincoln Feast; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Peter Cooney
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