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Afghan evacuations continue as Taliban claim moderate stance

August 18, 2021

The UN has cast doubt on claims that the Taliban have become less intolerant over the past 20 years. Military aircraft continue to transport people from Kabul airport.

Taliban soldiers are pictured at the entrance of Afghanistan's international airport in Kabul
The Taliban said they would 'not seek revenge' and that 'everyone is forgiven'Image: Kyodo/picture alliance

The Taliban held their first press conference since seizing control of Afghanistan on Tuesday. Spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said the ultraconservative insurgents would "not seek revenge" and that "everyone is forgiven."

The words were met with skepticism from the UN while Germany said it would judge the Taliban "by their actions" rather than their promises.

At the same time, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) said that some of the recent developments in Afghanistan "may amount to violations of international humanitarian law," including "extrajudicial executions in the form of revenge killings."

Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, who survived a Pakistani Taliban assassination attempt, said she "fears" the situation for women in Afghanistan. "We cannot continue to fail them. We have no time to spare," she wrote in The New York Times.

Several countries, including Germany and the United States, have continued to transport hundreds of people out of Kabul airport. Around 130 people who had been flown from Kabul to Tashkent on Tuesday arrived in the German city of Frankfurt on a commercial Lufthansa flight early on Wednesday morning.

What will happen to Afghan asylum-seekers?

World leaders continued to discuss the fate of the many thousands of Afghans who are now under threat of persecution in their own country.

Austria said it was unwilling to take in refugees while the UK announced a scheme to take 5,000 Afghans this year, with spaces for up to 20,000 over the next few years.

While some lawmakers in Germany expressed concerns over large numbers of asylum-seekers and refugees, protesters gathered in several cities calling for safe passage for Afghans whose lives are in danger.

The UN's refugee agency, UNHCR, said it hoped to stay operational in Afghanistan to help the large numbers of internally displaced people there.

World powers mull reactions to Taliban

Russia said it held "constructive talks" with the Taliban on Tuesday. Ambassador Dmitry Zhirnov told Russian state television: "The Taliban representatives said the Taliban has the friendliest approach to Russia. They confirmed guarantees of security for the embassy."

Meanwhile, the EU found itself having to accept the inevitability of talking with the Taliban, although still emphasizing that it does not recognize the insurgent group as the rulers of the country.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also said the bloc would suspend payments of development aid for the time being.

Taliban leader returns to take charge

Afghanistan's Vice President Amrullah Saleh said on Twitter on Tuesday that he was the "legitimate caretaker president" of the country after President Ashraf Ghani fled on Sunday. He had previously said that he would not "bow" to the Taliban.

Tuesday also saw the arrival of the top Taliban leader and co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in the city of Kandahar. He flew in from Doha, where he had been leading the Taliban's delegation in failed peace negotiations with the Afghan government.

Baradar is the highest-ranking official of the Islamist group who is known to have returned to Afghanistan. He is expected to take a key role in any eventual Taliban government.

ab/sri (dpa, AP, AFP, Reuters)