Taleban vows to provide safe passage to Kabul airport, US official says

Afghans wait outside Hamid Karzai International Airport to get out of Afghanistan, on Aug 17, 2021, after the Taleban took control of Kabul. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The Taleban has told the United States it will provide safe passage for civilians to reach the airport in Afghanistan's capital Kabul, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday (Aug 17).

Sullivan also told a White House news briefing that the United States believes the Kabul evacuation can go until Aug 31 and it is talking to the Taleban about the exact timetable.

Thousands of US troops have been flown into Kabul to assist in evacuation efforts after the collapse of Afghanistan's military and government after swift advances by Taleban forces.

"The Taleban have informed us that they are prepared to provide the safe passage of civilians to the airport, and we intend to hold them to that commitment," Sullivan said.

"We believe that this can go till the 31st. We are talking to them about what the exact timetable is for how this will all play out, and I don't want to negotiate in public on working out the best modality to get the most people out in the most efficient way," Sullivan added.

Sullivan said it is premature to say whether the United States recognises the Taleban as the legitimate governing power in Afghanistan.

"Right now there is a chaotic situation in Kabul, where we don't even have the establishment of a governing authority," Sullivan said.

"Ultimately, it's going to be up to the Taleban to show the rest of the world who they are and how they intend to proceed. The track record has not been good but it's premature to address that question at this point."

Sullivan said most people seeking to leave Afghanistan have been able to reach the airport, but the United States is addressing with the Taleban some reports of people being turned away.

"This is an hour-by-hour issue, and it's something we're very clear-eyed about, and very focused on holding the Taleban accountable to follow through on its execution," he said.

Army Major-General William Taylor, with the US military's Joint Staff, told a news briefing earlier on Tuesday that 4,000 US troops would be at the airport by the end of the day - an increase of 1,000 - and the aim is to have one flight taking off per hour.

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