To promote the evacuation of citizens and foreigners from Afghanistan, Washington has ordered six major commercial airlines to bring those flown from Kabul to US bases in the Gulf and Europe to the United States.
Overcrowding at those bases has resulted in delays and even the suspension of flights from Kabul. The US military has already evacuated about 30,300 people since the Taliban entered Kabul and took control of Afghanistan on August 15, after a swift defeat of government forces.
Hence, US President Joe Biden suggested that the evacuation could be extended beyond the August 31 deadline, depending on the progress of operations.
Biden broached the issue after the Taliban strongly criticized the evacuation. “The United States with all its might and resources … failed to bring order to the airport,” said Taliban leader Amir Khan Muttaki. “Peace and calm prevails throughout the country, but chaos is only at Kabul airport,” he added.
At least eight dead
The Taliban, famous for their strict interpretation of Islamic law when they ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, promised a softer version of this new administration. But terrified Afghans continue to try to flee, confounding the US-led operation at Kabul airport, where tragic scenes in which at least eight people were killed were recorded.
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Seven people were killed in the chaos near Kabul airport
The Taliban victory ended two decades of war, after benefiting from the decision of former US President Donald Trump, implemented by his successor Joe Biden, to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan.
Forced to send thousands of troops to oversee the evacuations, Biden insisted he was looking to end the US military presence in Afghanistan by August 31. But he came under pressure to extend the deadline, after the European Union and the United Kingdom indicated that it would be impossible to expel everyone on that date.
So Biden commented Sunday that talks are underway to discuss such an extension, although he would prefer not: “There are talks going on between us and the military about an extension,” the US president said. “We hope we will not have to expand, but there are discussions,” he said, referring to the possibility of consulting the Taliban.
Biden acknowledged the horrific photos at the airport that include babies and children being handed to soldiers among barbed wire and men hanging from planes as they take off, but he said they were part of the cost of the recall. “There is no way to evacuate so many people without pain and loss and without heartbreaking images,” he said.
So far, the Taliban have managed to impose some calm on the capital’s streets, with their armed forces patrolling the streets and watching from checkpoints. They also sought to impose an image of their authority, by replacing the three colors of Afghanistan with the white flag of the movement.
On the Kabul road, young people were selling Taliban flags, which bore black text with the declaration of the Islamic religion and the regime’s official name: “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”. “Our goal is to raise the flag of the Islamic Emirate throughout Afghanistan,” said salesman Ahmed Shakib, a student at the Faculty of Economics.
There was an outbreak of resistance outside Kabul against the Taliban. Some former government soldiers gathered in the Panjshir Valley, north of Kabul, which is known to be an anti-Taliban stronghold. Some anti-Taliban accounts on Twitter said on Sunday that the new regime had sent hundreds of fighters to the valley after “the local authorities refused to hand them over peacefully”.
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Amrullah Saleh, the vice president of Afghanistan in the previous government, who took refuge there on Twitter, said the Islamists had “mobilized forces near the entrance to Panjshir”. One of the leaders of the movement in Panjshir, nicknamed the National Resistance Front (FRN), is the son of the well-known anti-Taliban leader Ahmad Shah Massoud.
The movement’s spokesman, Ali Maysam Nazari, told AFP in an interview over the weekend that the National Liberation Front was ready for a “protracted conflict” but also wanted to negotiate with the Taliban for an inclusive government. “The terms of a peaceful agreement with the Taliban are decentralization, a system that guarantees social justice, equality, rights and freedom for all,” Nizari said.
rml (afp, ap)
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