Taliban pledge accountability, probe of reprisals across 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)
File photo of chief of Taliban's political office, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who reportedly arrived in Kabul to discuss an "inclusive" government with Afghanistan's other political and tribal leaders.

A Taliban official has vowed accountability for the conduct of its members across Afghanistan, insisting that the militant group will probe reports of any reprisals or atrocities by its forces.

"We have heard of some cases of atrocities and crimes against civilians," Reuters on Saturday cited what it described as an official speaking on condition of anonymity. "If Talibs (members) are doing these law and order problems, they will be investigated."

The chaos at Kabul airport, besieged by thousands of frantic people struggling to flee, was not the responsibility of the Taliban, he said, referring to hundreds of Afghans swarming US aircraft to flee the country. "The West could have had a better plan to evacuate."

"We can understand the panic, stress and anxiety. People think we will not be accountable, but that will not be the case," he said, claiming that the group planned to ready a new model for governing Afghanistan within the next few weeks.

However, the new framework for governing the war-torn nation would not represent a democracy per the Western definition, he said, insisting that "it will protect everyone's rights."

"Legal, religious and foreign policy experts in the Taliban aim to present the new governing framework in the next few weeks," the official said.

The remarks came amid reports that the Taliban's senior leadership was gathering in the Afghan capital on Saturday to map out a future "inclusive" government, as desperation heightened for thousands of Afghans still struggling to leave the country via a chaotic evacuation operation by the US and its European allies.

'Mullah Baradar in Kabul'

The official declined to comment on domestic media reports that chief of the Taliban's political office, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, had arrived in Kabul.

Mullah Baradar reportedly landed at Afghanistan’s Kandahar airport from Doha on a Qatari Air Force C-17 and was welcomed by jubilant supporters as a triumphant hero.

Another senior Taliban official was quoted in press reports as saying that Baradar would meet "jihadi leaders and politicians for an inclusive government set-up."

Leader of Afghanistan’s Hizb-e-Islami Party, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, announced on Friday that formal talks between Afghan political leaders and the Taliban would start once the Taliban leaders arrived in Kabul.

Hekmatyar said there were indications that the Taliban wanted to establish an inclusive government in Afghanistan.

Mohammad Younus Qanooni, the former vice president of Afghanistan, warned the Taliban against pursuing their past policies, local TOLOnews reported, noting that such efforts by the militant group will lead to failure.

Taliban militants around Kabul airport have urged those without travel documents to return home. At least 12 people have reportedly been killed in and around the airport since Sunday.

A NATO official was cited in press reports as saying on Saturday that nearly 12,000 foreigners and Afghans working for embassies and international aid groups have been evacuated from Kabul’s airport since Taliban forces entered the capital.

"The evacuation process is slow, as it is risky, for we don't want any form of clashes with Taliban members or civilians outside the airport," said the official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity. "We don't want to start a blame game regarding the evacuation plan."

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg described the situation outside Kabul airport "very dire and difficult," as several member countries pushed for evacuations to continue beyond a US deadline of August 31.

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