Taliban insist schools and colleges CAN open across Afghanistan as group says it is ‘seeking complete clarity on foreign forces’ exit plan’
- A Taliban spokesman confirmed schools and colleges can reopen across country
- Force spokesman added ‘managing the chaos at Kabul airport is a complex task’
- Reports suggest group will meet ex-Government officials to seek cooperation
- Meanwhile race to evacuate Afghans from airport by UK and US forces continues
The Taliban has insisted that schools and colleges can open across Afghanistan as a source confirmed they are seeking clarity on foreign forces’ exit plans.
A Taliban official added that the group commanders are set to meet former governors and bureaucrats in more than 20 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces over the next few days to ensure their safety and seek cooperation.
‘We are not forcing any former government official to join or prove their allegiance to us, they have a right to leave the country if they would like,’ the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters.
The Taliban’s swift takeover of Afghanistan has sparked fear of reprisals and a return to the harsh version of Islamic law the Sunni Muslim group exercised when it was in power two decades ago.
Crowds have grown at the airport in the capital Kabul each day over the past week, hindering operations as the United States and other nations attempt to evacuate thousands of their diplomats and civilians as well as numerous Afghans.
A Taliban official has confirmed that schools and colleges will be allowed to open across Afghanistan as the group says it is seeking clarity on foreign forces’ exit plans as evacuations continue from Kabul. Pictured: Taliban fighters patrol Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 19, 2021
A spokesman said while they are looking for co-operation from former Governors and bureaucrats, he added that they are not ‘forcing officials to join or prove their allegiance’
‘We are seeking complete clarity on foreign forces’ exit plan,’ the Taliban official added. ‘Managing chaos outside Kabul airport is a complex task.’
It comes as the Ministry of Defence confirmed seven Afghan civilians had died at the airport in Kabul as the race to evacuate citizens before foreign troops leave the country continues.
The British Ministry of Defence said in a statement that seven Afghan civilians have been killed trying to flee the Taliban.
A spokesman added: ‘Conditions on the ground remain extremely challenging but we are doing everything we can to manage the situation as safely and securely as possible.’
US military planes have been making rapid, diving combat landings at Kabul airport, while aircraft have fired flares on take-off, in a bid to confuse possible heat-seeking missiles amid a new, perceived threat from the Islamic State group affiliate in Afghanistan.
The situation around Kabul airport has taken a turn for the worse, with the Independent reporting that four Afghan women were crushed to death on Saturday – and perhaps as many as 12 killed in total – as they sought to access the airfield where military repatriation flights are leaving from.
Pictured: A Taliban fighter stands guard at a checkpoint in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 22
There were further worrying reports about the treatment of Britons and Afghans who supported the 20-year intervention who are trying to escape.
Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul has been the focal point for thousands trying to flee the Taliban, who seized power after sweeping into the capital a week ago following their astonishing lightning advance across the Middle Eastern country.
The Taliban on Sunday blamed the United States for the chaotic evacuation of tens of thousands of Afghans and foreigners from the capital, one week after the hardline Islamist group returned to power in a rapid victory that stunned the world.
The MoD confirmed that the Operation Pitting evacuation mission is being supported by 1,000 British troops – including Paras from 16 Air Assault Brigade – with nearly 4,000 people repatriated from Afghanistan since August 13.
It comes as the Defence Secretary, in what is likely to be read as a plea to Washington, said ‘no nation will be able to get everyone out’ of the Taliban-controlled country, with the US president’s August 31 target date making the rescue mission even more time pressured.
Mr Wallace (pictured right) makes a veiled plea for Washington (pictured left: US President Joe Biden) to delay the US leaving date beyond August 31, writing: ‘Perhaps the Americans will be permitted to stay longer and they will have our complete support if they do’
While acknowledging ‘no nation will be able to get everyone out’, Mr Wallace also announces that a series of ‘processing hubs’ will be set up in countries neighbouring Afghanistan for refugees who manage to escape. Pictured: British and US troops help Afghans in Kabul
Writing for the Mail on Sunday, Mr Wallace said: ‘If the US timetable remains, we have no time to lose to get the majority of the people waiting out.
‘Perhaps the Americans will be permitted to stay longer, and they will have our complete support if they do.’
According to the Sunday Times, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab – who is facing calls to resign over his decision to remain on holiday while Afghanistan collapsed – is seeking to speak to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to discuss extending the end-of-the-month deadline.
The 900 British troops cannot remain without the logistical support of the 6,000 US soldiers in Kabul and will have to finish the evacuation before that point to allow enough time to secure their own safe exit.
Pictured: A British evacuation flight with 265 people on board took off out of Kabul yesterday
Mr Wallace confirmed there were ‘too many people in the airport’ on Saturday, forcing the US side of the operation to suspend access. A MoD spokeswoman stressed that neither UK flights nor processing were affected by the pause, however.
US citizens were yesterday warned not to go to the airport amid fears that they might be hijacked en route by militants. The State Department said the US side of the airport would close for 48 hours. The British section remained open.
Sir Laurie Bristow, the British ambassador to Afghanistan who has stayed in the capital to help process applications, said the rescue effort was ‘without a doubt the biggest international challenge I have worked on as a diplomat’.
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