Taleban asks US to stop evacuating skilled Afghans

Refugees from Afghanistan are escorted to a waiting bus at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, on Aug 23, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

KABUL (AFP, REUTERS) - Taleban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, at a news conference on Tuesday (Aug 24), said it has asked US to stop evacuating skilled Afghans.

He also said that the Taleban is no longer allowing Afghan nationals to go to Kabul airport due to the chaotic situation there.

Crowds at the airport should go home and their security would be guaranteed, he said in Kabul.

"We ask the Americans... Don't encourage Afghans to leave... We need their talent," he said, noting that the United States has continued to invite people to the airport to board planes.

The hardline Islamist group said Americans were taking "Afghan experts" like engineers out of Afghanistan.

"We ask them to stop this process," he said.

Mujahid said the crowds of Afghans thronging Kabul airport seeking a flight out of the country could go home.

"We guarantee their security," he told the news conference.

He also said there was no list of people targeted for reprisals.

"We have forgotten everything in the past," he said.

Afghan media outlets were now working again, as were hospitals, schools, university and local government, he said.

Taleban will not extend Aug 31 deadline

The Taleban's top spokesman laid out a series of demands during the live broadcast as US-led troops have ramped up operations to get thousands of people out of Kabul.

The spokesman repeated the group's earlier announcement that the Taleban would not allow the US to extend next week's deadline for a complete withdrawal.

"They have planes, they have the airport, they should get their citizens and contractors out of here," said Mujahid.

President Joe Biden has said he hopes to stick to the Aug 31 deadline he set to pull out American forces, but he is facing pressure from European allies and Britain to go beyond the date.

About 50,000 foreigners and Afghans have fled the country from Kabul's airport since the Taleban swept into power on Aug 15, according to the US government.

"Every foreign force member is working at a war-footing pace to meet the deadline," a Nato diplomat, who declined to be identified, told Reuters.

Many Afghans fear a repeat of the brutal interpretation of Syriah law the Taleban implemented when the group was first in power from 1996-2001, and retribution for working with the US-backed government over the past two decades.

The Taleban, who ended two decades of war with an astonishingly swift rout of government forces, has been publicly tolerant of the evacuation effort.

Women not permanently barred from work

Female Afghan government workers have been asked to stay home until it is safe for them to return to work.

"It's currently for their benefit to prevent any ill-treatment," Mujahid said, claiming they have not been removed from their jobs and their salaries will be paid.

Mujahid also said it was trying to come up with a procedure so women could return to work.

However, the top UN human rights official, Michelle Bachelet, said she had received credible reports of serious violations committed by the Taleban, including summary execution of civilians and restrictions on women and protests against their rule.

"A fundamental red line will be the Taleban's treatment of women and girls," she told an emergency session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

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