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Taliban promise peaceful transition as world reacts to chaos in Afghanistan

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The photo shows members of the Taliban militant group at the presidential office in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 15, 2021. (By AP)

As world leaders continue to react to the abrupt US military pullout from Afghanistan, which was followed by the Taliban’s lightning takeover of the country, the militant group tries to assure the civilians and the international community of a peaceful transition.

“Our guarantees, our official statements ensuring that they will be no danger to their property, honor and life,” the Taliban’s spokesman Suhail Shaheen told CNN on Monday.

“That is our commitment...and they can see right now in the districts...all the people they lead their normal life. The schools are open. The offices are open. And the businessmen do their trade and business. So this is our practical example. So why they are terrified? They should not be terrified,” he added.

The Taliban spokesman said that the checkpoints that are being set up are meant to “prevent any insecurity” and to ensure that “the teams, the burglars, and the kidnappers do not carry out what they want to do.”

“Checkpoints are for the security of the people. These checkpoints have not been set up to harass people,” Shaheen added.

The group also vowed to respect the women’s rights, with the spokesman saying that the Afghan women and girls “will be going to schools, as teachers, as students. So you will see it.”

Taliban announces ‘general amnesty' for officials’

Meanwhile, the militant group on Tuesday declared a general amnesty for all government officials and called on them to return to work.

“A general amnesty has been declared for all... so you should start your routine life with full confidence,” the Taliban said in a statement.

After US President Joe Biden ordered a hasty withdrawal of American forces by September 1, the militants intensified their offensive and rapidly overran major cities.

Ultimately, the Taliban laid siege to Kabul on Sunday, forcing the sitting Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, to flee the country.

Ghani, whose current whereabouts are unknown, claimed he was leaving to avoid bloodshed.

The unfolding events have led to chaos and confusion, with thousands of Afghan civilians and diplomats swarming the Kabul airport to take evacuation flights.

As chaos engulfed the airport on Monday, it was closed for hours by US forces.

The Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) reopened for evacuation flights at 1935 GMT Monday, said Major General Hank Taylor, a logistics specialist on the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, adding that a C-17 transport aircraft had landed with US Marines aboard earlier in the day, and a second one loaded with an army unit was to land soon.

Taylor said the US was “in charge of air traffic control” at the HKIA airport for military and commercial flights.

The US plans to complete the evacuations by August 31.

“The mission is to evacuate our embassy personnel, American citizens as well as Afghans who we can help," the Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said at a press briefing on Monday. “The timeframe that we’re on… is to complete that mission by August 31.”

A Western security official at Kabul airport told Reuters that the airport is now clear of crowds, and that military flights evacuating diplomats and civilians from Afghanistan started taking off on Tuesday morning.

Talks on future government underway in Doha  

Meanwhile, the Taliban said talks were underway in Qatar with international players and Afghan political parties on a future government and its structure, adding that new related developments will be declared in the near future.

“At this time we face a test because now we are responsible for the security of the people,” the Taliban’s political deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar told TOLOnews on Monday.

At the invitation of Qatar, special envoys and representatives from China, Russia, Pakistan, the United States and the United Nations, as well as other regional countries and international organizations, have gathered in Doha since August 10 to hold talks over the situation in Afghanistan.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Monday that US negotiator on Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, remained in Qatar. “I would say that some of those discussions have been constructive,” the official added.

Asked about the recognition of a Taliban government in Afghanistan, Price said Washington would only recognize a future government if it respects the rights of women and shuns terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda.

“Ultimately, when it comes to our posture towards any future government in Afghanistan, it will depend upon the actions of that government. It will depend upon the actions of the Taliban,” Price told reporters.

“A future Afghan government that upholds the basic rights of its people, that doesn’t harbor terrorists and that protects the basic rights of its people including the basic fundamental rights of half of its population — its women and girls — that is a government that we would be able to work with.”

UNSC pushes for talks on govt. formation in Afghanistan

The UN Security Council on Monday called for the creation, through inclusive negotiations, of a new government in Afghanistan that would include women, after UN chief Antonio Guterres urged the 15-member body to “use all tools at its disposal to suppress the global terrorist threat in Afghanistan” and guarantee that basic human rights of Afghans will be respected.

In a statement, agreed by consensus, the UNSC also called for an immediate cessation of all hostilities and stressed the importance of fighting terrorism in Afghanistan to ensure other countries were not threatened or attacked.

“Neither the Taliban nor any other Afghan group or individual should support terrorists operating on the territory of any other country,” the statement said.

China decries ‘hurried’ US withdrawal from Afghanistan

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that the “hurried withdrawal” of US troops from Afghanistan had a “serious negative impact.”

He made the remarks during a phone call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday.

Wang stressed that the facts on the ground in Afghanistan proved that a foreign model could not be arbitrarily applied to a country with different cultural and historical conditions.

“Using force and military means to resolve problems will just increase them. The lessons of this deserve serious reflection,” China’s state broadcaster CCTV cited Wang as saying.

Wang, however, promised to cooperate with Washington to promote stability in Afghanistan and to prevent the country from becoming a breeding ground for terrorism again.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a tweet on Monday that he and Blinken discussed “the need for international coordination to prevent Afghanistan being used as a base for terrorist groups.”

Blinken also discussed Afghanistan with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday.

The two “agreed to continue consultations with the participation of China, Pakistan and other interested nations to establish the right conditions to begin an inclusive inter-Afghan dialogue under the new conditions,” a Russian foreign ministry statement said.

Moscow maintains contacts with all parties in Afghanistan

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Monday that Moscow maintains contacts with all political parties in Afghanistan.

The ministry also said in a statement on Monday that “the Russian Embassy in Kabul continues to function as usual. The working contacts with the representatives of the new authorities have been established in order to ensure security of the Russian foreign institution.”

France, UK say Afghanistan must not be used again as base for terrorists

Reacting to the latest development in Afghanistan, France’s President Emmanuel Macron said the South Asian country should not become the “sanctuary of terrorism” once again.

“This is key for international security and peace... we will do everything for Russia, the United States and Europe to cooperate efficiently as our interests are the same,” Macron said in a televised address on Monday.

He also said he had spoken to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and that “joint initiatives” would be agreed in the next hours.

During the call to Macron, Johnson, whose country holds the rotating G7 presidency, “outlined his intention to host a virtual meeting” of the grouping’s leaders on the situation in Afghanistan “in the coming days,” Downing Street said.

Britain’s Defense Secretary Ben Wallace on Monday said the West’s job in Afghanistan was only half-done.

“If it’s a failure, it’s a failure of the international community to not realize that you don't fix things overnight,” he told BBC television.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday described the return of the Taliban to power as “particularly dramatic and terrible.”

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