Afghanistan: Taliban begins outlining how it will govern – as evacuation drive steps up

The Taliban has begun to set out how it plans to run Afghanistan after its takeover, saying former government experts will be brought in and fighters will continue to demonstrate restraint.

A Taliban official outlined on Saturday morning how separate teams will deal with internal security and the financial crisis that is set to impact the country.

It comes as the UK races to help its own citizens and Afghans who have worked with the British flee the country after US President Joe Biden indicated rescue missions must be completed within 10 days.

So far NATO said about 12,000 foreigners and Afghans working for embassies and international aid groups had been evacuated since Taliban insurgents entered the capital a week ago, but the security situation around Kabul airport is worsening.

The Taliban official said Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s political leader, will delegate responsibility to commanders and meet former leaders, local militia commanders, policy makers and religious scholars in the coming days.

“Our fighters will continue to demonstrate restraint,” the official added.

He said no foreigners were being kidnapped, but the group was “questioning some of them before they exit the country”.

“Experts from the former government will be brought in for crisis management,” said the official of the group, which follows an ultra-hardline version of Sunni Islam.

Mr Baradar has returned to Afghanistan after leading Taliban negotiations in Qatar with officials including those from the US having been in exile following his release from prison in Pakistan in 2018.

Earlier, a Taliban official said that its members would be accountable for their actions and the group will investigate reports of reprisals and atrocities carried out.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken said that so far 13 countries had agreed to temporarily host at-risk Afghans evacuated from Afghanistan and another 12 had agreed to serve as transit points for evacuees – including Americans and others leaving Afghanistan – as they continue to ship thousands of people out of the country.

Tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan are waiting anxiously to see whether the US will deliver on Mr Biden’s promise to evacuate all Americans and all Afghans who helped the war effort, with American helicopters picking up people from locations all around Kabul, beyond the chaotic airport and Taliban checkpoints.

Bahrain said it would allow rescue flights to use its facilities, after the US faced issues on Friday because its facilities at Qatari Al Udeid Air Base rapidly filled up.

The United Arab Emirates also said it would host up to 5,000 Afghans before “their departure to other countries”.

A NATO officials admitted the process of evacuating those it deems as qualified was “slow, as it is risky, for we don’t want any form of clashes with Taliban members or civilians outside the airport”.

While increasing numbers of people are being able to depart via the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, the scenes outside where thousands are waiting have been described by Sky correspondent Stuart Ramsay as among the most desperate yet.

According to an official from Switzerland, which has postponed a charter flight to Uzbekistan aimed at helping the evacuation effort the security situation around Kabul airport has worsened significantly in the last hours.

People fleeing the country are continuing to flow across the borders into neighbouring countries with some 400 having arrived in Uzbekistan and pictures showing people crossing into Pakistan.

There were fears that an ensuing migration crisis could exacerbate regional diplomatic feuds, Greece having said it won’t accept being the “gateway for irregular flows into the EU,” and that it considers Turkey to be a safe place for Afghans, even though Turkey already hosts 3.6 million Syrians and hundreds of thousands of Afghans.

On Friday, Greece said it had completed a 40-kilometre fence on its natural border with Turkey, which it said had been finished “at a fast and intensified pace in view of the developments outside the borders of the country”.

Earlier, a Taliban official said the new Taliban model of Afghan government may not be democracy by the same strict Western definition, but would protect everyone’s rights.

In its dialogue with a number of different officials and groups, the spokesman said it had been discussing how to ensure Western powers leave the country on amicable terms.

A senior official in the ousted government, Abdullah Abdullah, tweeted that he and former president Hamid Karzai met with the Taliban’s acting governor for Kabul on Saturday, who “assured us that he would do everything possible for the security of the people” of the city.

On Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK would have to “manage the consequences” of the US withdrawal from the central Asian country.

After a meeting of the 30-nation NATO group, Mr Johnson hinted the UK could be willing to work with the Taliban “if necessary” to “find a solution” after two decades of military engagement.

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